Bach to visit India seeking more support for athletes

International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach speaks during a news conference at the end of the IOC Executive Board meeting in Rio de Janeiro, February 28, 2015. REUTERS/Pilar Olivares

By Sudipto Ganguly MUMBAI (Reuters) - International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach is baffled by India's lack of sporting success and will meet the country's Prime Minister later this month seeking more fund for the athletes, the country's Olympic association said on Wednesday. India's only individual Olympic gold medal came in 2008 when Abhinav Bindra won the 10 meter air rifle event in Beijing and the world's second most populous country's best overall showing was at the last edition in London where they won six medals. "The IOC president is always telling me '1.2 billion people in India and you are hardly getting a few medals'," Indian Olympic Association (IOA) president Narayanaswamy Ramachandran told Reuters in an interview. "I felt if he meets the Prime Minister, it will give an impetus to the program and we can ask for additional funding for the athletes in Olympic disciplines. "He is definitely bullish on India. After China we have the largest population and we are the largest democracy in the world and it has a nice federal structure." The German's visit will also encourage the Indian corporates to look beyond cricket and fund Olympic sports, Ramachandran said. "Money is available in the corporate sector, we have to tap it. We can only tap it if the corporates have confidence in the national sports federations," he added. Local media have been speculating on the possibility of an Indian bid for the 2024 Olympics being discussed when Bach meets Prime Minister Narendra Modi on April 27 but Ramachandran would not hazard a guess. "It is not fair to comment on what they may probably discuss," said Ramachandran, who also heads World Squash Federation. New Delhi hosted the Asian Games in 1951 and 1982 but the IOA faced heavy criticism over corruption charges and delays in construction while organizing the 2010 Commonwealth Games. In cricket-obsessed India most of the sports federations, run by long-serving administrators, rely on government largesse. Ramachandran said IOA was trying to put the focus back on the athletes. "Unless your athletes are going to win medals the image of IOA will not go up. The athlete must come first and not the administrator," he said. "You should simply look at the way a European country looks at the Olympics. If you take one athlete, that one athlete has a support staff of eight to 10 people. "How do you expect our athletes to go and perform at that level when you don't give them that type of support?" (Editing by Amlan Chakraborty)