Illustration: Shyam G Menon

Notwithstanding the central government’s recommendation, the final decision will be by the state governments

The central government has allowed select swimming pools to reopen as part of the phased relaxation of lockdown in India, the media reported on September 30, 2020.

This would be as part of Unlock 5, effective from October 1 and the reference to pools has been qualified as those used to train “ sportspersons.” It has been interpreted in swimming circles as meaning competition swimmers.

In its report on Unlock 5, the Hindustan Times wrote,“   Swimming pools being used for training of sportspersons will be permitted to open, for which the standard operating procedure (SOP) will be issued by Ministry of Youth Affairs & Sports (MoYA&S).” Notwithstanding the relaxation of lockdown norms by the central government, given the continued growth of COVID-19 infections, the final decision at ground level will be taken by the state authorities concerned.

In the world of sports, the lockdown to contain the spread of COVID-19, first enforced in late March, had been felt most severely in swimming. While other endurance sports like running and cycling progressively regained a semblance of activity at both amateur and elite levels (races and events are still not permitted) with every move to relax lockdown, swimming continued inaccessible as pools remained shut. This had naturally put pressure on elite swimmers for who, every day of training lost, makes it that much harder to recoup their form and ranking in competition.

The inclusion of swimming pools meant for training “ sportspersons” in the latest unlock guidelines from the center, is the first green signal to swimming in a long while. But as mentioned, the final decision even with regard to reopening facilities for competition swimmers will be that of the state government. In Maharashtra for instance, the state’s Unlock 5 guidelines (announced September 30) continues to have swimming pools in the banned category. At the time of writing, there was no mention yet of local exemptions in line with the central government’s recommendation.

(The author, Shyam G Menon, is a freelance journalist based in Mumbai.)

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