IOA to 'wait and watch' before deciding on India's Olympics participation

“I assure the people that we won’t let anyone down and our decisions will be in the best interest of our athletes,” says IOA president Narinder Batra.

File photo: Indian Olympic Association's Secretary General Rajeev Mehta (right) says the body will wait for a month before making any decision on Tokyo Olympics   -  PTI

The Indian Olympic Association on Monday said it will “wait and watch” for at least a month before taking any call on the country’s Tokyo Olympics participation after Canada created a flutter by becoming the first nation to pull out of the showpiece if it is held this year.

The north American nation’s withdrawal added to the International Olympic Committee’s woes after a host of top athletes and powerful sports bodies rammed up pressure on the IOC to postpone the quadrennial extravaganza in July-August.

However, India is ready to wait for a while before arriving at a final decision as it monitors the fast-evolving situation triggered by the pandemic, which has killed more than 14,000 and infected over 300,000.

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“Being the head of IOA, the health and well being of our athletes and officials are of prime concern to me,” IOA president Narinder Batra told PTI.

“Whatever decisions the IOA takes will be for the welfare of our athletes. But right now we are just waiting and monitoring the situation on a daily basis.

“I assure the people that we won’t let anyone down and our decisions will be in the best interest of our athletes,” he added.

IOA secretary general Rajeev Mehta said it would be at least a month before anything is decided. “We will wait and watch for four-five weeks and then come to any decision after consultation with the International Olympic Committee and the sports ministry,” Mehta said.

“The situation is not that bad in our country as compared to other nations,” he added.

When asked if India is also contemplating acting on the lines of Canada, sports secretary Radhey Shyam Julaniya said the ministry is not in consultation with anyone at the moment. “Your question is hypothetical and the govt cannot react to hypothetical questions,” he said.

“We are not in consultation with anyone right now. The ministry can’t keep giving advisories,” Julaniya added.

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The Olympics are looking increasingly uncertain after the IOC admitted that it would consider all options, including postponement, in four weeks from now. The deadly virus, which was first discovered in China, has wreaked havoc on Olympic preparations of athletes, including those from India. Several qualifiers have been suspended and training trips abroad have been called off owing to the travel restrictions all over the world.

Canada became the first country to pull out the Tokyo Games due to coronavirus and Australia told its athletes to prepare for an Olympics next year as Japan and the IOC flagged the prospect of a postponement for the first time.

Opposition to holding the Games as scheduled has only increased sharply in the last couple of days, with several major stake-holders such as U.S. Track and Field and UK Athletics, along with some national Olympic committees, pushing for a delay because of the pandemic.

Last week, the IOA had backed the IOC’s assertion that the upcoming Tokyo Games will weather the crisis and be held on time without a glitch.

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