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Shooters stranded at the airport

Kamesh Srinivasan

NEW DELHI: It may be quicker flying from London to Delhi, than flying from Pune to the Capital and reaching the Athletes Village for the Commonwealth Games.

Moving from their training base in Pune, the Indian shooters found it the hard way, but were willing to take it in their stride. Travelling with arms and ammunition around the world, they have been used to spending long hours at airports, but this experience was unexpected, on an internal travel when they were possibly expecting a red carpet welcome.

The National coach Prof. Sunny Thomas, who ensured that the shooters were able to go for training at the Dr. Karni Singh Range in Tughlakabad in the afternoon on Sunday, despite having gone to bed almost in the morning, said that it was possibly owing to “lack of coordination''.

The squad of 15 shooters and three officials had a warm send-off in Pune when it left on Saturday afternoon, but it was a long wait on arrival in Delhi.

Complicated arrangement

There was a complicated arrangement to take the squad from the domestic airport to the international T3 terminal, from where the transport was scheduled to take them, along with suitable security, first to the shooting range so that the arms and ammunition could be deposited in the armoury before they could proceed to the Games Village.

“It was perhaps a starting trouble'', said Prof. Thomas. Incidentally, one of the shooting officials already settled in the Games Village, had taken a Games bus to collect the shooters from the domestic airport, but the idea was rejected at the airport on security grounds. The shooting squad had to get special NSG security attached to it only at the international terminal, and there was considerable wait in reaching that stage. The procedure was done internally, with special arrangement for securing the baggage, and the squad did not have to come out of the domestic terminal. “Maybe they were waiting to get some other team to take us all together to the shooting range, but no team with shooters came eventually'', said the national coach.

The ordeal was not over after depositing the weapons and ammunition at the shooting range, and the shooters reached their accommodation in the Village only around 3 a.m.

Bindra escapes ordeal

Olympic gold medallist and world champion Abhinav Bindra had returned from the training camp in Pune two days earlier, and thus escaped the trouble. He has been paired up with trap shooter Mansher Singh, as in Beijing, for the accommodation, which is two per room in the Village. The shotgun shooters have been training in Delhi and had taken up possession of their rooms in the Village.

World champion Tejaswini Sawant and Samaresh Jung had also already returned to Delhi. Pistol shooter Heena Sidhu, busy with her examination back home in Punjab was also spared.

World record holder Gagan Narang, who had won four gold medals in the last edition of the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne, was one of the 15 shooters in the squad, who had to endure the tough exercise.

He had mentioned that he was ‘tired' at 4 a.m. when he eventually settled down in the village, in a social network site after having started from Pune at 2.30 p.m., and that perhaps triggered a media attention to the plight of the shooters who are expected to reap a rich haul in the Games.

Damage control?

There was considerable concern for the organisers who have been getting flak from all quarters, following news updates were flashed on the television, and Narang was perhaps forced to put up a positive note that read, ''First send off function received by the shooting team in India... by Air India at Pune airport. Our excess baggage was waived off and boarding cards were printed before hand. The team was delighted to be treated this way with express check-in and flowers. Delhi Police... with a motorcade from Airport to shooting range and onward to Games Village. Red lights, sirens and empty roads... VVIP treatment for a change''.

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