International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach speaks at a press conference on Monday. — AP

International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach speaks at a press conference on Monday. — AP

NEW DELHI: IOC supremo Thomas Bach met Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday with both leaders unanimous in their belief that it was too early for the country to bid for the Olympics.

The Indian media had been rife with speculation that the Modi government would sanction a bid for the 2024 Summer Games, even if it was only to test the waters.

A release from India’s official Press Information Bureau did not mention a bid being discussed between the prime minister and the president of the International Olympic Committee.

“The Prime Minister sought the IOC president’s support in making India a hub of sports infrastructure, sports technology, and sports equipment manufacturing,” the release said.

“The Prime Minister expressed his intention to promote India on the global sports map.” Bach also ended speculation about the bid, saying there was no proposal from the prime minister on India hosting the Games in the future.

“I was a bit surprised at the speculation for a bid because we thought it was too late to have a successful bid for 2024,” Bach told reporters at the end of the day-long trip.

“I am happy Prime Minister Modi also shared the same opinion.” Bach said a tripartite agreement had been signed with the Indian government, the Indian Olympic Association and the IOC to promote sports in India.

“India is a sleeping giant and we discussed how to wake up this sleeping giant,” he said.

New Delhi successfully hosted two Asian Games in 1951 and 1982, but the 2010 Commonwealth Games attracted embarrassing headlines due to corruption and delays in construction — which Modi would be desperate to avoid.

With Tokyo due to host the Games in 2020, Asia is seen as an unlikely venue for the 2024 edition, where Paris, Hamburg, Rome and Budapest are tipped as leading contenders.

The deadline for submitting an interest in the bid is mid-September.

The Indian Express reported on Monday that the sports ministry had submitted a dossier to the Prime Minister’s Office highlighting the pros and cons of hosting the Games.

The dossier projected a budget of between $12 billion to $15 billion, with New Delhi being suggested as the bid city, the paper said quoting unnamed ministry sources.

Despite being the world’s second most populous nation, India has a poor record in Olympic competition.

Shooter Abhinav Bindra, who won gold in 2008 in the 10-metre air rifle, remains the country’s only individual champion, while the last of India’s eight field hockey titles came back in 1980.

The medal haul from the London Games in 2012 was two silver and four bronze, leaving India 55th in the medal table.

Bach met Indian Olympic Association officials and attended a lunch hosted by sports minister Sarbananda Sonowal before meeting Modi in the evening.

Published in Dawn,

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