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No Ministry delegation at Tokyo Olympics: Why Kiren Rijiju's move was right for India?
In June, ex-Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju decided against sending Ministry's delegation to Tokyo Olympics to accommodate "maximum" support staff for the Indian contingent.
In March 2021, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) had confirmed that owing to the raising concerns over the spread of COVID-19 in Japan, no overseas fans would be permitted to attend the Tokyo Olympics.
They also issued a restriction on the number of support staff each country would bring to the games. It was stated that the total support staff that can travel with the team would be limited to 33 per cent of the number that has qualified for the Olympics. That means for three athletes going to the games, only one support staff could be present. The support staff would include doctors, physiotherapists, masseurs, and coaches who train elite athletes.
The Olympic accreditation is handed out to countries based on their total number of athletes going to the Olympics. So we can expect that if 120 athletes from India go on representing at the Olympics, 40 members can go with the entire contingent as support staff.
This is where the departing sports minister of India, Kiren Rijiju, stepped in. In every Olympics, India sends delegations from the sports ministry. However, Rijiju was quickly into action and decided against sending its delegation to Tokyo Olympics to accommodate "maximum" support staff, including coaches and physios, for the athletes competing in the Summer Games.
In June, the Sports Ministry had released a statement, which read, "The Ministry has decided to depute maximum additional support staff such as coaches, doctors, physiotherapists, to optimize the performance of the athletes. Visit of any person other than athletes, coaches and support staff will be taken up only if there is any protocol requirement. In the light of the arrangement, it has been decided not to have any Ministry delegation for the Tokyo Olympics."
In a bid to logistically support the Indian athletes, the Ministry also decided to set up an Olympic Mission Cell in the Embassy of India in Tokyo. "An Olympic Mission Cell is being set up in the Embassy of India in Tokyo, as a single-window node to provide logistic support to the Indian Contingent bound for Tokyo, so that all possible assistance is rendered seamlessly," the ministry said.
Why was it the right move?
If fewer support staff goes to Tokyo, Indian athletes could lose their essential support system when needed the most. For example, both the star Indian wrestlers Vinesh Phogat and Bajrang Punia have their personal coaches. While Punia trains under Georgia's Shako Bentinidis, Phogat has been with Hungarian coach Woller Akos.
Badminton ace PV Sindhu has her own physio and fitness trainer B. Evangeline, travelling with her. While javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra is honed by Dr Klaus Bartonietz, the German biomechanics expert. Though the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) is yet to draft the support staff's names for the Indian contingent, counting the Ministry delegation out of the picture, they would be able to adjust a few more important officials in the already tight list.
The IOA is considering including personal coaches in the official contingent, but it will be a tough ask to juggle between names and keep the list of officials limited.