The government is trying to rope in foreigners living in India, including sports coaches and scholarship students, to add an international flavour to its grand Yoga Day event at Delhi’s Rajpath that aims to create a world record on Sunday.
With three days left for the June 21 celebrations, the Centre is scrambling for foreign faces to score diplomatic points for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s pet project after receiving a lukewarm response from embassies, sources said.
“We have approached foreign students studying in and around Delhi to come and participate,” said Nilanjan Sanyal, secretary of AYUSH, the nodal ministry for the Yoga Day programme, in which around 35,000 people are likely to participate.
The Sports Authority of India (SAI) has issued a circular asking its foreign coaches to come from different parts of India to Delhi with a copy of their photo-identity cards. The AYUSH ministry is expecting 200 odd foreign students while SAI is likely to bring 21 sports personnel of 13 nationalities.
The Delhi session is the showpiece programme of broader global International Yoga Day celebrations that will see people roll out their yoga mats across the world, from Times Square in New York to Paris’ Eiffel Tower.
Foreign minister Sushma Swaraj, flanked by spiritual leaders like Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, will be in the United Nations headquarters on Sunday to mark the event.
The need for foreign faces prompted cabinet secretary PK Sinha to call a special meeting with AYUSH officials on Wednesday to finalise the modalities of participation for foreigners, who will be given a certificate after showing a copy of their passports.
The SAI and the sports ministry didn’t respond to queries about why coaches would go to Delhi when national camps were underway.
Prominent sports personnel expected to make the two-day trip to the Capital are middle-distance coach Nikolai Snesarev and his wife Anzhelika (Belarus), the female wrestling team coach, Roin Debornidze (Georgia), badminton coach Hendra Mulyono (Indonesia) and Malaysia’s Singaraveloo Subramaniam, who is in Chennai with the squash team.
Track and field support staff like Russian walking coach Alexander Artsybashev, throwing coach Lurii Minakov (Ukraine), archery coach Chae Woong Lim (South Korea) and Georgian coaches – Vladimer Mestvirishvili and Emzar Makharadze – have also been called.
In Delhi, training camps have come up at several places for the Sunday event. Apart from sending around 5,200 disciples to the Yoga event, Sri Sri’s team is also training more than 2,000 army jawans at Delhi cantonment.
Read: How 'superfast' China lent a helping hand to PM's Yoga Day initiative