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Blunder bus: how Dorset shooting range became target of Indian ire

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Ollie Williams | 09:46 UK time, Monday, 17 May 2010

Think of the quiet life and you may not pick the Shotgun World Cup as a likely setting. But you would at least expect a minority sport, in a corner of Dorset, to be free from international incident, wouldn't you?

Not so. Over the weekend, the Southern Counties Shooting Ground became a diplomatic battleground - unfortunate for an event, one of 64 supported by UK Sport during the run-up to the 2012 Olympics, which was supposed to persuade the world's top shooters to train there ahead of the Games

The row erupted when members of the Indian team complained of "harassment" from British bus drivers ferrying competitors to and from the venue.

A lengthy political narrative ensued, involving India's sports minister, the Indian High Commission in London, and wildly differing versions of what some might call relatively trivial events. While this played out, British shooters like Richard Faulds and Peter Wilson desperately tried to concentrate on the task at hand: their double-trap final.

The story has been prominently displayed on the front pages of Indian news websites, shocked at the perceived insult to their national team. Organisers of the event - the first of its kind to be held in the United Kingdom - can scarcely believe this has occurred, but now say they are learning important lessons ahead of London 2012.

Explaining the entire debacle would take forever but, to simplify things, the Indian team came over with travellers' cheques to pay their fees for entry into the competition, which did not sit well with the organisers.

A dispute over the payment of those fees arose, including the cash which paid for bus travel to and from the venue. Manavjit Singh Sandhu, an Indian Commonwealth gold medallist in trap shooting, takes up the story:

"The trouble started when two of our girls were offloaded from the bus. Due to administrative problems they took the shooters off, which we thought was weird, because you should sort those out with administrators rather than pull people off buses.

"Then I got onto the bus a day after and it was leaving but one of my team-mates was knocking on the door. I asked the bus driver to let him on but she refused, saying it was time to go. It was absurd, it would have only taken six or seven seconds.

"She walked out of the bus in a huff and a transport manager came on who yelled and screamed at me, and tried to force me off the bus. I've never come across such rude behaviour. Normally organisers accommodate the sportsmen, they go out of their way to make sure you get what you need.

"So the team management complained to the Indian High Commission and now the gentlemen concerned have tendered a written apology. That's fine by me, and I'm ready to get back to work."

That apology came in the form of a carefully worded statement from the organisers, which apologised for "any misunderstandings which may have occurred on both sides". In other words, they feel the Indians should take some of the blame - for example, the BBC understands the bus driver alleges foul language was directed at her.

Organisers and Indian team members shake handsPeter Underhill, left, shakes hands with India's Manavjit Singh Sandhu. Photo: BBC

This all ended in an incredibly awkward on-camera handshake between the Indian team and British organising chairman Peter Underhill, but not before the news was splashed across some Indian media, which had made a national hero of rifle shooter Abhinav Bindra when he won Olympic gold in Beijing two years ago - the first individual Olympic gold medal in Indian history and one which pushed shooting higher up India's national sporting agenda.

The Times of India ran its tale of "shotgun harassment" as a top story, at one point the most-read on its site, while the Deccan Chronicle carried quotes complaining of the "humiliation" of the Indian team, and some other sites made even wilder accusations.

Organisers, who would bite your arm off for a lone column inch in a British national newspaper, have been staggered to find rows of Indian reporters camped out on the grassy square outside the clubhouse, none more so than the quietly spoken Underhill.

"There have been misunderstandings," he admitted, gingerly. "But we have had meetings and apologised if we have caused any offence through mishandling of the transport arrangements. We're working together to get things on an even keel - which they are.

"There was a communication failure on the bus but I don't think it has overshadowed the event, although, obviously, we are disappointed the Indian team felt they had to play this one out in the media rather than following the usual channels.

"I don't know how that happened - it's unfortunate - but this is one of the great advantages of holding an event like this, two years before London 2012. It's not just about the physical ability to hold the event, but we must all learn, from volunteers to the top of the organising committees, about cultural differences and handling people.

"As much as anything else, it's a communication factor and we've all got to learn that. This has been a learning experience and it'll stand us in good stead on the road to 2012."

Peter Wilson at the Shotgun World CupBritain's Peter Wilson, left, in his first senior World Cup final. Photo: BBC

In between reading the views of Indian sports minister MS Gill and watching Indian delegates signing joint statements, it was a relief to actually watch some double trap shotgun, yards away from the diplomatic fracas.

Shotgun is one of three Olympic shooting disciplines (rifle and pistol being the other two) and the one at which Britain is strongest - Faulds, gold medallist at Sydney 2000, Steven Scott, Elena Allen and Charlotte Kerwood were four of GB's five-person shooting team in Beijing.

The team had been set a target of two medals but came back empty-handed. Following similar disappointment in Athens, that saw funding slashed by 75% in 2009, with 46 funded competitors reduced to five and top coaches departing the team.

However, the sport has been rebuilding in new, leaner times, and British 23-year-old Wilson has emerged as a rising star.

Wilson, who grew up so close that he could hear this shooting ground from his back garden, reached his first World Cup final in style, but struggled to maintain his form and had to settle for fifth place in the six-man finale.

"My goal was to make the final. I was disappointed in the final but the competition was absolutely brilliant, I loved it," he said.

"That was my new personal best across the board, and I don't think I pushed myself to the absolute limit. Towards the end of the year I think I can go one or two further.

"Richard Faulds is an Olympic gold medallist and that's exactly what I want to be in future, so I don't know whether I can overhaul him, but I'll just take every day as it comes.

Asked if the diplomatic circus taking place in his peripheral vision had registered, Wilson admitted he had "noticed it", but added: "If you get involved in things like that, you only make your own shooting worse, so it was best just to get my head down.

"I don't know the ins and outs - it would be lovely if we had front page news back here, whether it was good or bad, but it's a shame that the Indians had trouble."

Whether Wilson can now go on to outgun Faulds, who struggled in the intermittent rain and nagging wind, ahead of London 2012 remains to be seen, despite easily bettering him here.

Faulds, 33, finished miles off a place in the final but - as this is just one of five World Cup stages held this year - insists he is biding his time for competitions which really count.

"I'm disappointed not to have shot slightly better, but I haven't done a huge amount of training for this stage of the Olympic cycle. I'm focusing on later in the year, and next year, when Olympic qualifying places become available. [The qualification process for the 2012 London Olympics will not begin until the ISSF World Championships in Munich, starting 29 July.]

"So many people are capable of winning these events and Peter Wilson is without doubt one of them. He's very committed, he loves his shooting and if he sticks at it then there's no reason why he won't be there alongside me at 2012.

"But it's a very long road. You have to stick with it through the highs and the lows. You need to be long-sighted and look forward to your long-term goals."

Wise advice not only for Wilson, but British organisers too. The weekend's controversy may be holding front pages in India, but those with responsibility for London 2012 need to act like top athletes: ignore the commotion, reflect on what happened, and keep improving.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    Indian media take the Jose Mourinho attitude to life 'Us against the World.' Its ridiculous this should not have been headline material whilst the lawmakers in India are commiting sins every single day. News media in India has so much power that it has forced the Indian cricket team to axe 4 players following a disappointing Twenty20 world cup. The biggest player out of the 4? Yuvraj Singh. Im sorry but why would you want, arugbly our best player, out of the national team which can only de-moralize him.

    Indian media needs to take a good long look at itself and sort itself out. Its ridiculous this even gets a mention. When the media take a story out of porpotion (and its done on a daily basis) it makes me ashamed to be an Indian.

  • Comment number 2.

    I am not at all surprized by Indians being annoyed. Last winter I got on an Edinburgh bus and paid the driver for a day ticket. As his machine was not working he gave me an official looking card stating what I had paid. When I got on to the next bus the driver refused to acknowledge this caerd and asked me to get off. Luckily the next bus arrived soon after and the driver of this bus had no problem accepting the card. I complained. Lothian buses were very apologetic and said they would talk to the driver who had offloaded me. The experience was very embarrassing and I couldn't stop thinking about it for a couple of days. If I were shooting, I am sure it would have affected my concentration. And I am sure a team from overseas would feel this even more.

  • Comment number 3.

    I understand that Indian media overreacts to smaller incidents, but I don't back the the Bus driver or anyone. My friends in India traveled to UK for 3 months and he used to take bus to Work and My friend mentioned couple of times that bus driver always used to skip his stop saying that he is running late and he dropped him at next stop. THAT IS SO RUDE. and he has mentioned that once a guy spitted on his window while getting off the bus using some curse words.

    The current issue with players got escalated because of the complains to Indian Govt, else it should have been like my friends story who never complained ( which is waste as organizations always try to backup their employees )

  • Comment number 4.

    I know first hand how that feels. I have been to England a few times, the folks over there still think they rule the world. At every corner, someone will show you by deeds, looks or otherwise, that they think you are subservient.

    Moreover, the world lets them get away with it!!!

  • Comment number 5.

    Seriously, I will just add this to my weekly Care Cup. Who cares if a bunch of upper middle class visiting sports personalities from India got mistreated.

    Sadly such is the case with everything where you have "public" interaction, one would think with all the problems in the world be it environment or security people would have better things to write about.

  • Comment number 6.

  • Comment number 7.

    @Simply Zola - I believe you're digressing from the original issue. The issue is not about the Indian media making a mountain out of a molehill or about the sins of Indian (or for that matter any other country's) leaders. The issue is about Indian athletes being mistreated at the Shotgun World Cup at U.K. Now, I'm not here to verify all the accusations or counter-accusations. But I believe that they were right to raise the issue. I hope that British authorities treat this as an eye-opener and improve their "understandings" of different cultures and countries before the 2012 Olympics.

  • Comment number 8.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 9.

    If there is patience, cordial attitude and respect for players everything will go smoothly and even minor differences weather cultural or otherwise can be solved this holds true for both sides.

  • Comment number 10.

    I think Americans are much better than Englishmen in treating foreigners in their land. I had been to America several times. I never even heard of these things in America. Grow up England.....how long will you live in your past.....

  • Comment number 11.

    @Redrose80,

    Dear the English are just as hospitable as any other nation. When i first moved to surrey as a young lad from Pakistan, who knew the warm welcome my all english neighbours would have given me.

    If you don't like the country or its people then why bother coming in the first place, comments such as yours acutally breed hatred and misunderstanding.

  • Comment number 12.

    @ Palamedic

    Its people like you who want to twist the discussion as they see it.

    Don't you know that in the current incidence, it was the sportsmen were invited by the organizers.
    If you are right, then sportmen should stay from Olympic as well.

    Grow up.

  • Comment number 13.

    Talking about the incidence,

    It would be unfortunate if the organizers feel that its "cultural" issue and brush it under the carpet with technicalities.

    The fact is that it happened with soprtsmen of international stature and not some hulligans. You don't need to understand the culture to be understanding and polite to people visiting your country.

    You are fortunate that the Indian delegation has accepted "if" apology. If they are really as bad as they are made out to be then they could have insisted change in wordings.

  • Comment number 14.

    Misunderstandings all round - the Indians were not being picked on. Far from it. They were being treated in exactly the same way as any British person using the buses would be!

  • Comment number 15.

    Indians are mistreated everywhere, maybe it is because the color of our skin or the way we look. The world is used to it and continues with that behaviour of mistreating Indians. In my experience I have been treated disrespectfully for no rhyme or reason by Australians, Arabs and Europeans (from Europe) that I had chance to meet in places like workplace, Airports or Bus Terminals etc.. This maybe just a group of people I met, but I had the feeling that the attitude was cultural and not personal, but it is just my opinion. I have been to Africa, Middle East, Europe and US. Africa and US has least of such discrimination as far as I can tell.

    There is some mistreatment in US too, but I think they are much more sensitive to this than the europeans and try to keep their emotions to themselves as much as possible.

    Rather then previliged members of the above mentioned group, I think it is the under-previleged ones like a Bus Driver, Airport Security or people like them who used Indians to feel superior, they could not get that feeling anywhere else being in the bottom of the ladder.

    But Indians are now fighting back, it will take the world a few years to get used to that and it will take a few years for the Indians and Indian media to understand how to fight this behaviour, until then mistakes will be made.

    One group I missed in the list of offenders, is the Indians themselves. It is no secret that we treat each other very badly, I think unless we correct ourselves here, there is not much chance of correcting the world any time soon.

  • Comment number 16.

    I agree that its mis-understanding when the driver refuses to open the door once the time is up in the UK, In India it’s not that strict, bus drivers wait to get as many people possible on board. Generally, the bus buses don’t run on time in India and delay is not acceptable in the UK.

    But when it comes to using abusive language, it certainly cant be a "mis-understanding" or "cultural" difference. Most Indians do understand English very well (esp foul words), even though they may not be able to speak very fluently. Abusive language is very much undignified.

    I have seen many people use the "mis-understanding" get-away even in the corporate world. When people don’t get it right it’s always easier for them to shift the blame onto non-natives, this could be true of Europeans whose first language may not be English, but with the Indians its a totally different story.

    On the whole the English are very warm and welcoming, but there is always scope of improvement.

  • Comment number 17.

    It is interesting to see how Ollie Williams brushes aside this incident as an "over reaction" from the visiting athletes and the Indian media. It is a well known fact that the worst and most unforgiving media in this whole world is the British media. Given that the country is hosting such a respectable international event, they need to train their people in showing basic courtesy to their guests. The world is watching to see how efficient, friendly and hospitable the English are and this isn't necessarily showing them in good light. It is not matter of cultural or linguist differences, it is a matter of basic manners. I am an Indian living in America for the last 8 years and have been charmed by the humble friendliness and hospitality of the Americans. It is about time that the British let go of their colonial mindset and learn to respect other races.

  • Comment number 18.

    This is really unfortunate. I completely agree with Deepika. Its all about basic manners. Some people in Britain are plain naive. The country is in huge Debt but they still think they are richest in the world, The time of the "Raj" is over but they still think they rule the world, They need immigrants to fill the gap in their skill base but they blame all their problems on immigration, they think theirs is a land of "gentlemen"
    but lack basic manners, they don't have any family values but they still look down on other countries who have strong knit families and cultural values. They think they have the best airlines in the world in "British Airways" but it is the worst in customer services. They don't have what it takes to welcome a guest and make him feel comfortable. They try to hide their shallowness with behavior typical of the bus driver and transport guy who misbehaved with Indian contingent. I feel sorry for them. Its all air no substance, they just cant believe that they are sliding downwards from where they were a 100 years ago.

  • Comment number 19.

    It’s good that Indian media and government took this seriously. Any nation can not tolerate such behavior with their top athletes. I can never assume such behavior with any International sports man by an Indian bus driver.

  • Comment number 20.

    @ aom1702,

    Thank you for advising me to grow up, whilst you digress off-topic. The issue still remains, people are blaming Briton's for being inhospitable. And i say that is far from the facts...

    Being the son of the 2nd generation immigrant i have always had a warm welcome from my time in the convent to when i was in the Reserves. If Brit's are truly so foul natured as "RedRose" put it, then why to millions flock to London and other parts of the UK to visit, work or study?

    I think some people need to wake up and smell the coffee...

  • Comment number 21.

    I see this article which is written from British perspective and that too from BBC. I have lived in UK for last 7 years and served as a doctor. I met many nice people who helped me. However, there are many who did spit on me when I was travelling on a bus, various actions to suggest how stupid we are are,many times being called Paki and many more such incidences. I am doctor and so have to carry on with my life treating people equally well. To me,it does not matter if someone has black or white.All are equal to us.Also I can not complaint to anyone as it will not be a headline.
    There are racist people around everywhere.You will find many more in Asia. We must acknowledge that. However we must not forget there are a lot of good common men and women in England and around the world.
    Of course when it comes to national issues, they behave and prioritise Britain,I guess but natural. But we do as well,as we are Indians,we have rights to live in this world.
    You might want to read about MMC diaster for doctors in 2006.

  • Comment number 22.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 23.

    Looks like most people are following the Indian media and 'making mountains out of mole hills'.

    In England, as in most parts of the world buses run to schedule. If its time for the bus to leave and the doors are shut. Then the driver is quite frankly within her right and doing her job in refusing to to let the person on. It doesn't matter if he or she is a high class athelete (although not sure i count shooters as athletes) of a member of the public, the rules should be the same.

    TBH is makes India look a bit silly, England & the UK is by far the most multicultural country in Europe. What we won't stand for is people throwing their toys out of the pram.

    The responses, by what I asume are mainly Indian, just go to back up the actions of the driver. If your 'athlete' reacted like this then no wonder he got chucked off.

    Come to the olympics and see how horrible we are....there's no where more welcoming than London!....and as for people talking up america, they are by far the rudest nation on earth....2nd only to india by the looks of it.

  • Comment number 24.

    posts numbers 4, 10, 12, 17, 18 seem to hint that every single person in england has an attitude problem when it comes to foreigners in this country, when actually it is just a very tiny minority sadly that still exists.

    As for the opinion that england thinks that it rules the world is utter rubbish and quite simply a very narrow minded.

    @suny1974 grow up, this country doesn't mind having qualified immigrants in this country its the ones that come here dont want to get a job and claim benefit that we as a nation have a problem with. Plus i have had poor service from many a foreign company but dont blame it on the fact they are not from the same country, i just put it down to the individual i am dealing with.

  • Comment number 25.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

 

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