NEW DELHI — India is not ready to bid for the 2024 Olympics but could be a candidate to host the games in the future, IOC President Thomas Bach said on Monday.
"Frankly, we were a little bit surprised about this speculation (of a potential Indian bid)," Bach said at a news conference after a meeting with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. "Because of different reasons we think it will be a little too quick for India to have successful Olympics in 2024."
There had been reports in the Indian media recently about a possible 2024 bid from New Delhi or even Ahmedabad, the biggest city in Modi's home state of Gujarat.
Bach said Modi did seem eager to bid but understood that India, the world's second most populous nation, was not prepared yet.
"We were happy to see that the PM was sharing this feeling — that he is seriously looking at the Olympic candidature." Bach said. "However, he wants to be well prepared and have all the expertise. It was an opinion shared by us."
The prospect of a successful Indian bid for 2024 seemed remote after New Delhi's organization of the 2010 Commonwealth Games came under severe criticism at home and abroad over constructions delays and corruption scandals.
Rome, Boston and Hamburg, Germany, are the declared candidates so far for 2024. Paris is also expected to join the race, among other cities.
The deadline for declaration of bids to the International Olympic Committee is Sept. 15. The host city will be selected by the IOC in 2017.
While a 2024 bid has been ruled out, Bach said India could be in the running in the future.
"He (Modi) considers building a successful candidature from now till September will be a little difficult but we will stay in contact for the future," Bach said.
The IOC leader said the immediate focus would be on helping India improve in sport.
"India is a sleeping giant and we will try to wake it up," he said. "With 1.2 billion people and 80 million of them young, it has a lot of potential."
India has only recently started winning medals at the Olympics. It won six medals coming at the 2012 London Olympics but no golds.
Rifle-shooter Abhinav Bindra, who won gold in Beijing in 2008, remains India's only individual gold medal winner. The last of India's eight Olympic gold medals in field hockey came 35 years ago in Moscow.
Bach said the IOC had signed an agreement with the Indian Olympic Association and the Indian government on Monday to help improve Indian sports.