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OCA secretary says Thomas Bach's visit is boost for Indian sports

NEW DELHI -- Olympic Council of Asia secretary-general Randhir Singh says International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach's visit to India will boost the profile of Olympic sports in the country irrespective of whether it bids for the Olympic Games.

Bach was due to arrive late on Sunday with a meeting scheduled with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday amid speculation that India wants to bid for the 2024 Olympics.

"We've been hearing about the government being keen to bid for the Games but I think we have to wait and see how things go," Randhir told The Associated Press on Sunday. "I think the IOC chief's visit will boost sports federations and bring them in the limelight, which too is good for sports."

India's chances are considered slim because Rome, Boston and Hamburg are already declared candidates for 2024 and a host of other cities including Paris are expected to join the race.

"There is also the chance that India bids later. But the very fact that the IOC president and our prime minister are meeting, brings Olympic sports into focus," said Randhir, who is also an IOC member.

"There are likely to be some 'Memorandums of Understanding' signed and we could see the National Institute of Sports in Patiala made into a high-performance center, which again will be good for us," he added.

India has been trying to change its image as a one-sport country in recent years even though cricket remains a national obsession.

The world's second most populous country has only recently started winning medals at the Olympics with its greatest haul of six medals at London in 2012, which did not include a single gold.

Rifle shooter Abhinav Bindra remains the only individual gold medal winner, having won at Beijing in 2008. The last of India's eight Olympic gold medals in field hockey came 35 years ago at Moscow.

Randhir said it was too early to speculate on how India would benefit if it hosted the Olympics.

"There are obviously going to be a lot of gains but let's wait 'til something is announced before discussing how we will benefit," he said.

India hosted the Asian Games with some success in 1951 and 1982 but its organization of the Commonwealth Games in 2010 was criticized both in India and abroad over construction delays and corruption scandals.

All three were held in New Delhi but Indian media is rife with speculation that the western Indian city of Ahmedabad could be proposed as a host city for the Olympics.

The Indian Olympic Association, which was suspended by the IOC for more than a year in 2012 for electing tainted officials, dropped its plan to bid for the 2019 Asian Games last year despite being provided a deadline extension by the OCA.