Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju and IOA president Narinder Batra Tokyo Olympics.
Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju and IOA president Narinder Batra had unveiled the official kits ahead of Tokyo Olympics. Image courtesy: Twitter/@Media_SAI

About a week ago, Indian Olympic Association (IOA) launched the sports apparel and ceremonial kits of the Tokyo Olympics-bound Indian contingent ahead of the Tokyo Olympic Games, which subsequently led to criticism.

At the virtual launch last week on Thursday, while the unveiling of India’s sporting and ceremonial kits, in the presence of sports minister Kiren Rijiju, it was revealed that the Chinese brand Li Ning would be the official sports apparel sponsor. However, the day before yesterday Indian Olympic Association dropped the idea of having Chinese sportswear maker, Li Ning as its official apparel sponsor for the upcoming Olympics and opted that the country's athletes would don unbranded apparel rather during the Tokyo Games scheduled to be commenced from July 23 to August 8.

Olympic bound athletes Bajrang Punia, Ravi Kumar, Deepak Punia, Sumit, Seema Bisla and Neeraj Chopra were also present for the unveiling ceremony hosted at the residence of the Hon’ble Sports minister.

"We are aware of the emotions of our fans and we in a IOA have decided that we will withdraw from our existing contract with an apparel sponsor," IOA president Narinder Batra and secretary general Rajeev Mehta said in a statement.

"Our athletes, coaches and support staff, will wear unbranded apparel."

There have been calls for boycott of Chinese products since tension had increased at the LAC between the Indian army and Chinese troops last year. "We are thankful for guidance by the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports in making this decision," Batra and Mehta said in a joint statement.

"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." 

With regards to the sports apparel kits of the Indian Olympic team for Tokyo, Sports Minister of India, Kiren Rijiju made an announcement on twitter yesterday. 

"Indian athletes, coaches and support staff, won't be wearing any branded apparel at Tokyo Olympics. Only 'INDIA' will be written in the kits of our athletes," Kiren Rijiju tweeted. 

Sunlight Sports(Li Ning India official distributor)  acknowledges the present worldwide scenario and the country's undulating situations, and has agreed to allow the Indian Olympic Association to organise the Indian Olympic team's official sports clothing domestically.

Li Ning has outfitted Team India for a number of international competitions and events in the past, including the 2018 Asian Games, the 2018 Youth Olympic Games, and so on.

The Indian Olympic Association appreciates Sunlight Sports wholehearted support since 2018 and applauds Sunlight Sport's understanding for allowing IOA to organise the sports kits locally. 

Speaking in Beijing, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said: "We hope India can view regular cooperation between countries objectively and fairly, and avoid politicising the issue."

India will send a strong contingent to the Tokyo Olympic Games and so far, athletes from 12 sports including badminton, boxing, hockey, wrestling, sailing, athletics, archery, equestrian, fencing, rowing, shooting and table tennis have qualified.

 It is expected that the Indian contingent will be around 190, including over 100 athletes,  IOA president Narinder Batra said on Thursday during the unveiling of official Indian Olympic kits by Sports Minister, Kiren Rijiju. 

So far, 100 athletes have qualified for the Tokyo Games, including 56 men and 44 women. With regards to the other sporting disciplines where Indian athletes still have a chance to qualify, (IOA) expects another 25 to 35 to make the cut for the Games like Judo, Swimming and Golf.

While Li Ning was the official sports clothing partner, Indian brand Raymond's has sponsored the official ceremonial kits for the Indian Olympic team.