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Tokyo Olympics: Despite challenges, IOA President confident of double-digital medal tally

Seems a trifle optimistic, given India’s tally of two medals at the Rio Olympics; country’s contingent to face Corona scrutiny in Japan.

June 28, 2021 / 04:47 PM IST
(Image: AP)

(Image: AP)

With the Tokyo Olympics less than a month away, all hopes are riding on Team India that will represent the country at the games.

These include fancied athletes like boxer Amit Panghal and fencer Bhavani Devi, among others.

In a conversation with Moneycontrol, Indian Olympics Association (IOA) President, Narinder Batra, said that despite the challenges the athletes have faced due to the delay in Tokyo Olympics, he expects team India to record a double-digit medal tally at the games.

The Tokyo Olympics, which was initially slated to be held last year, was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The games will now be held from July 23-August 8 this year.

"The team that is going will be around 120-130 strong and I am expecting medals from everyone. I am not singling out any sport or any individual in terms of winning medals. So, I am expecting a double-digit medal tally from the entire Indian team," said Batra, exuding confidence.

A double-digit medal tally could be a tall ask, however, considering that the Indian team won only two medals at the 2016 Rio Olympics.

Badminton player PV Sindhu had clinched a silver medal and wrestler Sakshi Malik a bronze.

For the Tokyo Olympics, over 110 athletes so far have qualified from India.

But things have not been easy for the athletes, Batra pointed out.

"They (athletes) have given their best and trained for this period and it is they who have to go through the grind again. I do bad feel for the athletes who have to do it (practice and training) all over again, but the end is good as the Olympics are finally happening," he stated.

Batra pointed out that since March last year, both athletes and the association were convinced that the (Tokyo) Olympics might get delayed.

"But just for how long, we never knew. By April-May, we got to know that the event was being shifted by one year so every programme had to be reworked, from training to participating in tournaments. While there were certain athletes who backed out due to fatigue, it was not restricted to India; it happened across the world."

The challenges have not just been limited to practice and training of athletes; there are financial implications as well.

"The state Olympic association and the National Sports Federation of India (NSF) depend on sponsorship and because of the pandemic they have suffered," he points out.

Even the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) is facing financial difficulties, but for reasons unconnected to the pandemic.

Recently, IOA had to drop Chinese sportswear brand Li Ning as the kit sponsor of team India. The decision was made after IOA was criticized for its association with the Chinese company. The association was due to expire after the Tokyo Olympics.

Batra said that on the kit decision, there will be financial implications as the IOA now will have to pay for the kits.

While IOA was looking for another sponsor, time constraints had led to them paying for the kits.

For both athletes and IOA, the journey to Tokyo Olympics has not been an easy one - yet Batra claims, "If you ask what's the mood today, everyone is raring to go and want to give their best."

The IOA President also spoke about the vaccination plan.

"The first dose of vaccination has been given to all athletes and officials who are going to Tokyo. This includes athletes who have qualified and those who will qualify potentially, which is a long list. About 80 percent of the officials and athletes have also received the second dose, who have qualified and potentially will qualify. The remaining 20 percent will be completed by the end of this month or positively by the first week of July," he explains.

While things are up to date in terms of training and vaccination, it is not going to be easy at the Tokyo Olympics.

According to news reports, Japan, which is hosting the games, plans to come up with a new rule. Under the new rule, Indian athletes will have to get daily virus tests done for seven days before leaving for the Tokyo Olympics.

This is due to the new Delta variant of the coronavirus.

Recently, a member of the Ugandan Olympic team who tested positive for the coronavirus upon arrival at the Games, was carrying the Delta variant.

When it comes to India, out of the 45,000 samples sequenced so far in India, the Delta variant has been detected in 48 samples in 10 states, according to Union Health Ministry data.

Therefore, the new rule is likely to be applied to athletes coming from India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Afghanistan with effect from July 1.

Hence, the challenges remain for the athletes.

But this is precisely why, said Batra, "this is your team so we should cheer them up and support them."

Maryam Farooqui
first published: Jun 28, 2021 04:47 pm