The Indian Olympic Association drops kit sponsor of Tokyo-bound contingent

The Indian Olympic Association (IOA) announced that they have withdrawn from their “existing contract with an apparel sponsor” and that the Tokyo-bound contingent will be wearing “unbranded apparel” during the Games next month, claiming that they were “respecting the sentiments of the people of the country.”

IOA president Narinder Batra and secretary-general Rajeev Mehta did not name the apparel sponsor in a joint statement released on Tuesday. However, Chinese firm Li Ning was declared as the official sports clothing sponsor during the introduction of India’s sporting and ceremonial outfits last Thursday in the presence of sports minister Kiren Rijiju.

Batra and Mehta avoided addressing Li Ning in their statement. We are mindful of the feelings of our supporters, and the IOA has chosen to terminate our existing relationship with an apparel sponsor. Unbranded clothes will be worn by our athletes, coaches, and support staff, according to the statement.

Batra and Mehta did not respond when asked if the apparel sponsor mentioned in the statement was Li Ning. According to the two IOA officials, the decision was made so that the athletes could focus on training rather than “answering queries about the garment brand.”

At the Rio Olympics, the Chinese giant was also a sponsor of India’s uniforms. In 2018, the country’s athletes wore Li Ning’s jerseys during the Commonwealth and Asian Games. The IOA said it was reviewing its sponsorship contract with Li Ning because the clamour to ban Chinese items in India intensified during the border crisis last year.

The company was supposed to provide the athletes with sportswear, travel and playing equipment, as well as baggage, for their trip to Tokyo. So far, 99 Indian competitors (55 men and 44 women) have qualified for the Olympics, which will take place from July 23 to August 8.

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