Hyderabad: The recent order of the Tokyo Organising Committee of the Olympic Games (TOCOG) imposing special restrictions on Indian participants is highly discriminatory and worthy of the strongest possible condemnation. The Government of India must take up the issue at the highest levels and ensure that Indians are treated at par with participants from other nations.
The TOCOG has instructed the Indian participants who will travel to Tokyo, to undergo daily COVID tests for a week prior to their departure as if they are diseased and worse off than everyone else. Moreover, these tests should be done at certified centres recognised by TOGOC and nowhere else. All these impositions make things very complicated and difficult for Indians who are presently undergoing training in different parts of India and abroad.
But even that is not enough to satisfy TOCOG. Furthermore, Indian players, after arriving in Japan, have been told not to interact or mingle with other participants for a period of three days. “For three days after your arrival in Japan, you will not be able to interact with anyone from another team or country,” read the new order.
So virtually Indians have been told by TOCOG that they must treat themselves like untouchables. The order to stay away from other contingents for three days means they will have to practice by themselves in an empty stadium where no other athletes should be present; they must eat in an empty dining hall where others won’t be there and; they must use transport that will not be used by anyone else.
Not only are these regulations discriminatory, they are highly impractical. When thousands of athletes and players from different countries have gathered in Tokyo, how will the Indian athletes, gymnasts, shooters and boxers find empty stadiums only for themselves to practice? If they cannot find empty stadiums, then obviously they will have to stay indoors and forget about practice. Spending three days without practice before the matches will badly affect their skills.
The same holds good for the dining hall. How will Indians ensure that athletes from all other countries go away before they can have their meals? In this respect too, it will mean that Indians will have to stay in their rooms, order food from outside and eat separately like untouchables. What effect this treatment will have on their minds can well be imagined. The mood will be one of depression. As is well known, modern sport is all about both mental and physical preparation. If the mind is disturbed, no sportsman can play at his best.
Moreover, the order lacks clarity on many important issues. What about Indian athletes who have been training abroad and will reach Tokyo directly? Will they also have to be subjected to these unfair rules? Where should they get their seven tests done? Besides, it may take a day or two for Test results to be received. The players whose events are to begin immediately, may not be able to provide test results on time.
Also there are daily briefings by the organisers to inform the participating team managers about last minute changes to the schedule. If the Indians are kept isolated, they will not be allowed to attend these briefings.
The Indian Olympic Association (IOA) President Narinder Batra was furious with the new rules that have been suddenly sprung on the Indians.
“The Indian athletes will be attempting to hit their physical and psychological peak just before the Games begin. But they are being told to sit quietly, locked up in their rooms for three whole days. It will affect the morale and confidence of our players. They will be physically and mentally underprepared,” he said.
“They (TOCOG) have created a lot of difficulty and confusion. We have made our concerns known to the TOCOG and they have said that they will look into it. I hope they will understand the difficulties that we Indians will have to undergo if they enforce the new rules. I hope they will take back the new orders,” said Batra.
Abhijit Sen Gupta is a seasoned journalist who writes on Sports and various other subjects.