Okuhara narrates ordeal, BAI regrets unfortunate incident

The Badminton Association of India had expressed regret and said they would ensure no such incident takes place in the future.
File image of Japanese shuttler Nozomi Okuhara. (Photo | AP)
File image of Japanese shuttler Nozomi Okuhara. (Photo | AP)

CHENNAI:  Japanese shuttler Nozomi Okuhara’s recent travel experience in India turned out to be a nightmare. The former World No 1 feared for her safety as she was duped by a taxi driver in New Delhi, before she was forced to anxiously wait for her stay in Odisha, her main destination, where she is currently part of a BWF Super 100 event. She spoke of her harrowing experience after landing in New Delhi and later on her arrival in Odisha. The latter was sorted after the organisers were contacted.

The Badminton Association of India had expressed regret and said they would ensure no such incident takes place in the future. Organising secretary Nileen Kumar, who is also an executive committee member of BAI, explained the reason for miscommunication. He, of course, said that such thing should not have happened and felt for the harrowing time she had to go through.

Japanese shuttler Nozomi Okuhara
Japanese shuttler Nozomi Okuhara

However, he said that she had to fill up a form if she needed accommodation or conveyance some 30 days ago. “This is for everyone Indian or players from abroad,” he said. She apparently would have missed filling up the form. “It was unfortunate what she had to go through. On her arrival on December 10 when she was not being able to get a room of her liking I asked her if she needed help but she said she was making her arrangement,” he said. “I told her that we will assist her in any form she wanted. We assisted her to get a hotel. We do not want such incidents to happen here. We take care of such arrangements.” In fact, he is the one who met Okuhara in the lobby and extended help. “We know she is a former World No 1 and we would not do such things intentionally,” he said. “We take care of our guests. I told the hotel staff to take care of her while she waiting for a room.” 

The New Delhi chapter was something Okuhara will never forget. “I was prepared for it (journey), but due to a series of problems, it was a physically and mentally demanding journey,” she wrote. After arriving from Hong Kong in New Delhi, she had plans to stay in the city for a night and head to Odisha the next morning. However, trouble began as soon as she landed in the capital. “The hotel near the airport was not directly connected to the airport, but it was a 10-minute drive from the airport, so I was instructed to take a taxi.” Mindful of potential harassment from drivers that is common at airports, she had booked an uber ride for a 10-minute journey to her hotel.

However, after being unable to locate her ride, she walked outside, where she was approached by several drivers. That’s when an opportunist driver approached her and promised to take her to the hotel. Though hesitant, she felt compelled to trust the guy. It was also getting late. A journey that was supposed to be 400 yen (Rs 230 approx), she eventually ended up paying Rs 1,900. Though feeling cheated, she was just relieved to reach her destination. “When I later converted it (Indian currency) into Japanese yen, it was just under 4,000 yen, which was 10 times the cost of Uber. I thought I had been fooled completely, but I was able to arrive safely at the hotel with my luggage, so I was glad.”

She could barely sleep that night as there was some uncertainty regarding her stay in Odisha. Moreover, she was unable to get in touch with the Indian officials, which meant her stay at the official hotel was not confirmed. She was also unable to get help from officials from Japan. After reaching the official hotel, she was told that there was no reservation for the Japanese team and she was forced to wait as the hotel tried to get in touch with her travel agency, who made the bookings. She also wrote that she met the organisers in the lobby and sought help.

That’s when her agency contacted her and asked her to opt for a new place close to the venue. However, she found the new options to be questionable and was reluctant to move. She also contacted PV Sindhu, hoping to get some assistance. In the end, she found a place where the Indonesian team was staying. 

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