Eighty-three out of the 541 athletes who will be representing the country at the Asian Games will have to spend from their own pocket to wear India colours. This is because the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) has decided to sponsor kits for only those federations which are affiliated to them.
Consequently, the 46 men and 37 women athletes from eight sports, whose federations are not recognized by the IOA, will have to foot the bills for their opening/closing ceremony attires, competition kits, training gear and medal ceremony costume. The eight sports in question are bridge (24 athletes), sports climbing (3), soft tennis (10), sepak takraw (24), sambo (1), roller skating (4), pencak silat (3) and kurash (14).
It is learnt that these unaffiliated members requested the IOA to reconsider their decision during a meeting in Delhi on Saturday. “They are discriminating against us. Eventually, all athletes are representing the country,” a federation official told The Indian Express. “We have requested the IOA to reconsider their decision because the expenses are huge.”
There seems to be confusion among the IOA over who will actually bear the expenses. While IOA president Narinder Batra denied there were any issues, the Olympic body’s treasurer Anandeshwar Pandey said the decision to sponsor only the affiliated members was taken long time ago.
“It must be some misunderstanding. There are some specific sports where we have told them to get their kits designed directly from our vendor but we will reimburse each of them,” Batra said. Pandey, on the other hand, added: “There has to be something that separates the affiliated members from the unaffiliated ones. We had decided in a meeting some time ago that the IOA will bear kitting expenses only for those sports whose federations are our members.”Caught in the quagmire are the eight fringe sports. Earlier in July, the IOA took measurements and noted down specific requirements from athletes of remaining 29 sports where India is represented.
The eight non-members, however, were merely given the contact details of the IOA vendor and get their costumes designed from them directly. The federations have been told to get their kits designed from specific vendors to ensure uniformity. The clothing for each athlete costs approximately Rs 30,000. The ceremonial dresses (blazer, shirt, tie, pant, pocket square) itself will cost up to Rs 10,000 each whereas the competition and training gear is worth Rs 20,000. The playing kit includes two t-shirts, a track suit, cap, shorts, three pairs of socks, a backpack, a gym bag and a suitcase. Shoes cost extra, with the minimum rate being Rs 5,000. While some federations have decided to pay themselves, a few others are considering to pass it on to their athletes due to paucity of funds. A sepak takraw official said the kitting will cost them around Rs 10 to 12 lakh whereas a bridge official estimated their expense at Rs 7 lakh. It is believed they have taken up the issue with the sports ministry as well. However, they have decided not to intervene yet.
One of the federation officials said the issue has cropped up because of a clause in IOA’s sponsorship deal. “As per the information we have received, the IOA deal says the sponsors will provide kit only for their affiliated members. Since we are not a part of the IOA, their sponsors will not bear our expenses,” the official said. “Since we are not a mainstream sports, our funding isn’t much. But we do not want to put the burden on our athlete. The IOA has said they will inform us of the final decision this week. Hopefully, they will have some mercy on us.”