Sports Minister Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore has expressed his inability to attend the Asian Games torch relay here on Sunday, prompting the Indian Olympic Association to extend an invitation to his predecessor Vijay Goel, who has accepted it.
An official of the Sports Ministry today informed the IOA that Rathore was “very keen to join but will not be able to attend the torch relay function this weekend as he will be required to visit Cochin in connection with some urgent work”.
IOA president Narinder Batra, with whose body the ministry has been at loggerheads in recent times on various issues, replied: “This event happens once only in four years and is very important part of our Indian sports history. It is unfortunate the Hon’ble Sports Minister cannot come. We understand he must have got more important work to attend.”
Batra informed that Goel, who served as sports minister just before Rathore, has consented to grace the event.
“Mr. Vijay Goel, former sports minister and present union minister, has very kindly agreed to be our chief guest at the torch relay function and official dinner.”
The flame of the 18th Asian Games in Indonesia will be lit at the Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium in New Delhi — the birthplace of the Olympic Council of Asia’s premier sports event in 1951.
The ceremonial lighting of the Asian Games Torch will be followed by the start of the Torch Relay. The torch handover process will also involve the OCA president Sheikh Ahmad Al Fahad Al Sabah, Indonesia Olympic Committee President Erick Thohir and Indonesia’s sports minister Imam Nahrawi, besides Batra and Goel.
The flame will later travel back to Indonesia for the start of the 18,000km domestic torch relay through 50 cities in 18 provinces before arriving at the Gelora Bung Karno Main Stadium in Jakarta for the opening ceremony on August 18.
The IOA and the Sports Ministry have been at loggerheads for some time on various issues, including selection of youngsters in various sports for training at the facilities of Sports Authority of India after the Khelo India School Games.
The IOA feels that it was an infringement on the autonomy of the National Sports Federations (NSFs).
Batra had earlier asked the officials of the NSFs not to be associated with the Khelo India initiative.