For Indian athletes pursuing Olympic eligibility through sports, travel restrictions written in cold, bureaucratic patois script have turned into daggers of fear.
Due to an extraordinary immigration order placed on Indian nationals as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak and its contagious variants, main shuttlers are clinging to the expectation that Malaysia and Singapore will open their borders to them.
The Badminton Association of India (BAI) has begun frantic negotiations with affiliate federations in order to organize visas for eight shuttlers. They’re just Tokyo aspirants. The BAI is waiting for documents that will enable its players to fly to Malaysia and Singapore for the Malaysian Open (May 25) and Singapore Open (June 1), keeping their Olympic dreams alive.
This is significant for Kidambi Srikanth, Saina Nehwal, Ashwini Ponappa, and Sikki Reddy, who will embark on a last-ditch attempt to reach Tokyo.
The unfortunate thing for the shuttlers came from Malaysian Transport Minister Wee Ka Siong’s Facebook page, who announced that all Indian nationals and tourists would be denied entry, as well as tight port restrictions.
“The move takes effect on Wednesday, the New Straits Times reported, citing Defense Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob. The second, much larger wave of virus infections sweeping India has prompted travel restrictions in several countries,” Malaysia on taking the cue from UK, NZ and Hong Kong to bar Indians.
Despite its own stringent restrictions on Indians, Singapore gave hope.
According to BWF’s prospectus, Indians must be in a “low-risk country” by May 14 in order to consider visiting Singapore by May 29. As the rest of the world devolves on Malaysia for the final tournament of the Olympic qualification period, the Badminton Association of India is working with the Badminton World Federation.
The BAI in an interview on Thursday said, “For now there is a 14 day quarantine guideline which means, our players have to reach Malaysia on May 10 to follow the protocols laid out by both the countries. We have also reached out to Malaysian Federation to understand if there are any updated quarantine rules that will be imposed on Indian players”.
The walls might be closing down on Indian athletes aiming Tokyo.