IOA Parts Ways with Chinese Kit Sponsor of Olympic Contingent

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The Indian Olympic Association (IOA) have withdrawn from their ‘existing contract with an apparel sponsor’, stating that they were ‘respecting the sentiments of the people of the country’. The Tokyo-bound contingent will be sporting ‘unbranded apparel’ during the Games next month, reported The Indian Express.

In a joint statement issued on Tuesday, IOA president Narinder Batra and secretary-general Rajeev Mehta refrained from specifying the name of the apparel sponsor, the report claimed. However, during the unveiling of India’s sporting and ceremonial kits last Thursday, in the presence of sports minister Kiren Rijiju, it was announced that the official sports apparel sponsor was Chinese brand Li Ning.

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“We are aware of the emotions of our fans and we in the IOA have decided that we will withdraw from our existing contract with an apparel sponsor. Our athletes, coaches and support staff, will wear unbranded apparel,” the statement said.

“We are thankful for guidance by the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports in making this decision. We would like our athletes to be able to train and compete without having to answer questions about the apparel brand. As it is, they have all been challenged by the pandemic over the past year and a quarter and we want them to be not distracted,” the statement added.

The Chinese giant was the sponsor of India’s kits at the Rio Olympics as well. The country’s athletes have also donned Li Ning’s uniforms at the Commonwealth and Asian Games in 2018. But after the clamour to ban Chinese products in India grew following the border dispute last year, the IOA had said it was reconsidering its sponsorship deal with Li Ning, as per the report.

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“Our association (with Li Ning) is till the Tokyo Olympics but we will take up the issue in our general body meeting. For us, the country comes first,” Mehta had said last June. The organisation, however, continued their partnership with the company.

On 3 June, after unveiling the kit, the IOA mentioned in a media release: “Li-Ning designed the official sports kit inspired by India’s national colours and integrated unique graphics to emote the energy and pride of the Indian Olympic Team.”

The company was to supply sports attire, travelling and playing kits including bags for the athletes headed to Tokyo. So far, 99 Indian athletes (55 male and 44 female) have qualified for the Olympics, which will be held from 23 July to 8 August.

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