Need to overcome 'unfair' protocols to succeed in Tokyo Olympics: IOA chief Narinder Batra to Indian athletes

IOA President Narinder Batra said negotiations are still on to ease restrictions on training during quarantine.
Indian Olympic Association President Narinder Batra (File Photo| EPS)
Indian Olympic Association President Narinder Batra (File Photo| EPS)

NEW DELHI: There is "no way out" of some "unfair" restrictions that Tokyo Olympics organisers have imposed on Indian athletes in view of the COVID-19 pandemic, IOA President Narinder Batra conceded on Wednesday, asking the country's contingent to be mentally prepared for added curbs.

Batra said the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) is still awaiting clarifications on several issues like athletes' training and food arrangements during the Games and hopes to have resolution for some of the issues before the event opens on July 23.

"We are trying to prepare ourselves mentally according to the present situation and if there are certain situations, we have to live with them, there is no way out," Batra told PTI in an exclusive interview on Wednesday.

India is among 11 countries identified as high risk by the Japanese authorities, who have asked the athletes travelling from here to get tested for COVID-19 for seven days before departure and be in hard quarantine for three days after landing in Japan.

Batra said negotiations are still on to ease restrictions on training during quarantine.

"Tokyo organising committee has been very co-operative and very helpful. Every country has different guidelines. Guidelines related to the pandemic are not laid down by the organising committee, these are always laid down by the respective governments.

"So, it takes time to discuss and negotiate with the government and get response. They are trying their best, and whatever responses we are getting are positive," he asserted.

"Many issues have been resolved, and on many things, we have asked for more clarifications but there is still sufficient time and we hope to get all the clarifications we need."

The clarifications that the IOA has sought is with regards identification of training areas for the Indians.

"Clarifications like where athletes will have their food, where they will have their gym training, where they will be able to train. About first three days, it's not quarantine but there are some special conditions.

"We are still awaiting replies on those parts, rest all have been clarified, testing labs have increased and many other issues have been sorted."

The stricter regulations will not apply for Indian athletes travelling from non- high risk countries, like Italy or other parts of Europe where a lot of them are training right now.

"...the conditions that have been put that we cannot train 3-5 days before events are unfair because that is the time when the athletes attain their peak.

If you let them sit idol and their diets are not taken care of, it is unfair.

"So we still await clarification, it might be that these things are resolved but as of today, I feel that the conditions are a little unfair for these 11 countries but I can only speak for India," Batra said.

He was, however, hopeful that elite athletes, who have trained for a good five years for the Games would be able to overcome some of these challenges in pursuit of medals.

" have trained for this Games for five years but I do know these things remain at the back of your mind. I feel one has to overcome these issues and go and give their best."

"There has been no compromise in preparation of the athletes. Proper training has happened all the time in India and outside India. The athletes are fully fit and raring to go to the Olympics," he said.

The IOA chief feels it would be a logistical nightmare if they are required to send the Indian athletes individually just before their events.

"We have asked for clarifications on this matter. For example, shooting starts on July 24 but the events are scattered all over, so do we have to send athletes one by one or everybody checks in at July 24 or five days before that? Sending athletes individually would be a logistical nightmare.

"We had a flight on 17th and 18th July but both got cancelled. We have spoken to Air India and Spicejet to give us special flights. So let's see what works out. We are planning to send the contingent of 70 or 80 athletes from India on 17th."

Over the last one year, the IOA chief has maintained that he expects a double digit medal count from the Tokyo Games.

However, on Wednesday he toned down his expectations, saying it would be unfair to put pressure on the athletes in such a difficult time.

"I had made a statement in the past which has been going on consistently for the last one year, but now taking cue from our Hon'ble Prime Minister and I think he is very right that we should not put any pressure on the athletes.

"So I am not talking anything on medal count but I am pretty sure that our athletes will give their best and bring glory to the country."

Batra also thanked the BCCI for donating Rs 10 crore for the country's Tokyo-bound contingent.

"We are thankful to BCCI, they are also into promotions and athlete support. The kits are the same but they will go unbranded. Everyone who comes on board, we are thankful to them," he said.

He said there would be two flag-bearers for the opening ceremony and one for the closing and the names would be announced as and when the contingent list is finalised.

More than 100 Indian athletes have qualified for the Games so far.

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