The Sports Ministry on Wednesday cleared the three Indian athletes qualified for next month's Winter Olympics at government cost despite the trio taking part in the Sochi Games as independent athletes.
Shiva Keshavan (in luge), Himanshu Thakur (in alpine skiing) and Nadeem Iqbal (cross country skiing) have been cleared by the government for the February 7-23 Games after a meeting chaired by Sports Minister Jitendra Singh. The Indian athletes have been barred from competing under the national flag because of the International Olympic Committee's sanctions against the Indian Olympic Association, who will hold their elections on February 9, two days after the opening ceremony of the Games.
The Ministry decided to provide the funds for air travel, out of pocket allowance, for sports kit including ceremonial dress, and boarding and lodging in case it is not provided free in the Games Village in Sochi.
"The Ministry has directed SAI to release funds to WGFI immediately for the required components under the Scheme of Assistance to NSFs for the three sportspersons and three coaches who would be accompanying them," a Sports Ministry release stated.
"It included (i) Air passage cost (economy class): as per actuals or differential of the actual air passage cost and the air passage cost provided by the Organizing Committee of the Games. (ii) Out of pocket allowance: USD 50 per day per person for the period of the stay of the sportspersons and coaches in Sochi. (iii) Sports Kit including ceremonial dress: Rs. 20,000 per person, (iv) Boarding and lodging: as per norms provided in the Ministry's Scheme of Assistance to NSFs, in case Organizing Committee of the Games is not providing free
boarding and lodging in the Games Village," it added.
The Ministry, however, delayed the sanction of the funds related to buying of expensive equipments for Himanshu and Iqbal requested by the Winter Games Federation of India.
The WGFI had said that the duo would need to buy new equipments for the Games -- at least Rs 6 lakhs per athlete -- as the specifications of the equipments for Winter Olympics are different from the ones they have been using.
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"The Ministry is separately examining the request of the WGFI for grant of funds for players and coaches from the National Sports Development Fund for items such as ski, ski boot, Ski Stick, Ski Suit and snow clothing which are not covered under the Scheme of Assistance to National Sports Federations," the Ministry said.
The Ministry also clarified that request for financial assistance for participation of Indian sportspersons in Winter Olympics was made only on December 28 as against the requirement of sending the proposal for financial assistance at least 90 days before commencement of a sports event. But the Ministry insisted that as a special case, the request has been considered.
Image: Shiva Keshavan