New Delhi: Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju on Tuesday said “there can’t be any discrimination” as he weighed in on the tougher Covid-19 restrictions imposed by Japan on India’s Olympic-bound contingent, saying a formal complaint has been lodged and the issue will be addressed.
With the pandemic still raging, the Tokyo organisers have prescribed stricter regulations for travellers from 11 countries including India for the Games beginning July 23. The Indian athletes and officials have been asked by the Japanese government to undergo daily Covid-19 tests for a week prior to their departure and not interact with anyone from another country for three days upon arrival, strictures that have left the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) fuming.
“…as per the Olympic charter there can’t be any discrimination with any country. Any discrimination has to be addressed,” Rijiju said in an online interaction with media. “I have asked the IOA to register a formal complaint with the Tokyo organisers which they already did. We will strongly raise any issue which affects our athletes preparation and chances.
“The Olympics are happening under challenging circumstances, it’s a challenge for everybody,” he added. The IOA has asked the Tokyo Games Organising Committee to allow relaxations in the Covid-19 test protocols, citing the logistical hassle it would cause for the athletes and officials before their departures.
“…our priority is to ensure safe and secure environment for the training and participation of our athletes. We have to ensure that our athletes are not in any mental stress,” Rijiju said.
The minister reiterated that he is “completely satisfied” with preparation for the Olympics and expects the country to register its best-ever medal haul. India’s best performance in the Games came in 2012 when the country returned with six medals, including two silver medals. The count dipped to just two in the 2016 edition.
Highlighting the ministry’s efforts for the Tokyo Games, Rijiju said the government has spent Rs 1,100 crore in the last four years for the athletes’ preparation. “I personally feel whatever should be done and could be done has been meticulously executed. Our athletes have been given the best platforms,” he said.
“We have spent Rs 1,100 crore for preparation through the ACTC in the last 4 years, including funding for athletes under TOPS. India has not been counted as a major force in Olympics. “…but this time I feel India should do better than previous editions. In fact, we will be sending our largest contingent to Tokyo.” He, however, refrained from making predictions on the medal count.
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