Minister of Sports Kiren Ridge said on Tuesday that “there can be no discrimination” as he assessed the stricter restrictions on COVID-19 imposed by Japan on the Olympic contingent in India, saying a formal complaint had been lodged and the matter would be addressed.
As the pandemic is still raging, organizers in Tokyo have imposed stricter rules for travelers from 11 countries, including India, for the games, which begin on July 23.
Indian athletes and officials have been asked by the Japanese government to undergo daily tests for COVID-19 for one week before leaving and not to interact with anyone from another country for three days after arrival, strictures that have left the Indian Olympic association (IOA) combustion.
“… according to the Olympic Charter, there can be no discrimination with any country. Any discrimination must be addressed,” Ridjiju said in an online media engagement.
“I asked the IOA to file a formal complaint with the Tokyo organizers, which they have already done. We will strongly raise any issue that affects the training and chances of our athletes.
“The Olympics happen under challenging circumstances, it’s a challenge for everyone,” he added.
The IOA has asked the Tokyo Games Organizing Committee to allow the release of test protocols for COVID-19, citing logistical trouble it would cause athletes and staff before they leave.
“… our priority is to provide a safe and secure environment for the training and participation of our athletes. We need to ensure that our athletes are not under mental stress,” Ridge said.
The minister reiterated that he was “completely satisfied” with the preparations for the Olympics and expected the country to register its best medal to date. India’s best performance in the Games came in 2012, when the country returned with six medals, including two silver medals.
The number dropped to just two in the 2016 edition.
Highlighting the ministry’s efforts for the Tokyo Games, Ridjiju said the government has spent 1,100 kroner over the past four years training athletes.
“I personally think that everything that needs to be done and can be done has been done thoroughly. Our athletes have received the best platforms,” he said.
“We have spent 1,100 rupees on training through the ACTC in the last four years, including funding for TOPS athletes. India is not considered a major force in the Olympics.
“… but this time I think India needs to do better than previous editions. In fact, we will send our largest contingent to Tokyo.”
However, he refrained from predicting the number of medals.
“We do everything with maximum medals in mind. But as sports minister, I am not able to predict the number of our medals. Our expectations are high. Let’s hope this Olympics is memorable and successful,” he added.
“We are behind you, you just go and deliver,” the minister said in a message to Tokyo-linked athletes.
On Sunday, the BCCI pledged a donation of 10 rupees to support the country’s Olympic athletes, and Ridjiju said the money would be donated directly to the Indian Olympic Association, which will decide how to use it.
“Every Indian, if he can, must support the Olympic movement, whether private or public. The BCCI is an ingenious body and they are ready to agree to support the Olympic movement.
“I had a meeting with BCCI staff and they (BCCI) will directly hand over the money to the IOA for other costs and management. The costs are high and the Ministry and the Sports Authority of India are always there to support,” he said.
Ridjiju also revealed that due to the pandemic, the ministry will organize a virtual farewell ceremony next month for Tokyo-linked athletes in the country.
“Traditionally, there is always a dispatch, but this time a public dispatch is not possible due to COVID. So we will organize a virtual event and I will also ask the Prime Minister to join us.
“The event will be organized before the first contingent leaves the country for Japan between July 17 and 18,” he said.
The minister also assured that all Indian athletes associated with Tokyo will be vaccinated before leaving for Japan.
“Most athletes have received the first dose and the process is underway for their second dose.
“Initially, we faced some difficulties for athletes who are already training outside and will fly directly from their training bases to Tokyo, because each country has its own rules regarding vaccination,” he said.
“So we had to use our Indian missions there for vaccinations.”