Less than 50 days before the Tokyo Olympics begin, the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) is looking forward to a challenging task to prepare a new sports kit for the Indian contingent – without the Chinese footprint.
On June 3, the IOA unveiled the ceremonial and competition kits in the presence of the Minister of Sports Kiren Ridge, the main guest. The occasion also marked the 50-day countdown for the Olympic Games from July 23 to August 8 in Tokyo.
Six days later, sports kits with the logos of a Chinese company that sponsors the IOA have become a contentious issue, given India-China relations.
So how did the IOA wake up from the Chinese link to athletes’ clothing? “Someone in the prime minister’s office (PMO) raised the issue to avoid the Chinese company’s logo,” a source said.
Following the instructions of the Ministry of Sports, the IOA issued a statement saying that given the mood of the fans, the team of Indian athletes will be without the logo of the Chinese company.
This last-minute set change seems to have created a challenge to quickly prepare new sets.
“We expect a crisis near the Olympics, as several athletes may not receive suitable sports kits. The qualification process in some disciplines, such as athletics and swimming, is still ongoing,” a National Sports Federation (NSF) official told IANS.
On June 8, the IOA said in a statement: “We are grateful for the guidance of the Ministry of Youth and Sports in making this decision. We would like our athletes to be able to train and compete without having to answer questions about the clothing brand. “
Rajiv Mehta, secretary general of the IOA, was not available for comment. Another IOA official said there had been no border clashes with neighboring China in the recent past that could hurt the mood of Indian sports fans.
In August last year, after a conflict between India and China on the Ladakh border, 20 Indian soldiers were killed.
India’s Cricket Control Board then suspended sponsorship of the Premier League title by a Chinese mobile company, taking into account public sentiment.
After a year, however, the Chinese company returned as IPL titular sponsor for the 2021 tournament.
“If the Chinese mobile company can sponsor IPL cricket tournament titles, why can’t other disciplines receive sponsorship,” an IOA official said on condition of anonymity.
Chinese company Li Ling sponsored an Indian team sports kit for the 2016 Rio Olympics, and the contract was for the Tokyo Olympics. The same company is sponsoring Indian team sports kits for the 2018 British Community Games and the Asian Games in Jakarta. “The issue was not raised then,” an NSF official said.
Birendra Prasad Baishya, head of the Indian contingent’s mission to the Tokyo Olympics, did not answer calls or text messages.