Ending the suspense over who would be the Indian contingent’s flag bearer at tomorrow’s 17th Asian Games opening ceremony, men’s hockey team captain Sardar Singh was today bestowed with the honour.
“The flag bearer will be Sardar Singh, captain of the men’s hockey team. Actually all the people were asked and we have been trying to ask the coaches about who is available.
They all have matches the next day or the day after and none wanted to stand outside the stadium from 12 noon to 4 pm (before the parade). Sardar does not have a match. He was happy to do so,” said Chef-de-Mission Adille Sumariwalla.
“There were so many contenders, we asked them. Wrestlers are not there, boxers are not there. The badminton event is starting the day after and so do the shooters.”
The former national sprint champion and Olympian explained why the focus should not be on the flag bearer, which was just symbolic, but on winning honours at the Games.
“I don’t see why we are focusing so much on the flag bearer. We are here to win medals. Flag bearer is symbolic; focus should be on medals. Any great athlete can do it and we have many of them.
“It will be a great boost to hockey and I hope we can win the gold, they (men’s team) has been playing well,” he added.
Sumariwalla also said because of the restrictions imposed by the organisers, each country cannot field more than 130 persons in the parade.
“Size is limited to 130, it can be less not more for the opening parade. I don’t even know. For example Nikolai (Sneserev of Belarus, coach of middle distance running) has said ‘though my wards’ events are later my athletes won’t be participating’.”
He also said the strength of the contingent was 722, which included 541 competitors.
“350 of them have come so far out of 541. Total number of officials is 181 – made up of doctors, physios, coaches, managers and video analysts,” he added.