New Delhi, Jun 9 (UNI) The Indian Olympic Association (IOA) has dropped Chinese sportswear Li Ning as its official kit sponsor for the Olympics citing public sentiment in the country and said that the athletes will wear unbranded apparel during the upcoming Tokyo Games.
The IOA had unveiled the Olympic kit designed by Li Ning last week, which led to widespread criticism as Chinese companies have faced a backlash in India after last year’s military face-off between the two countries in eastern Ladakh.
According to reports, the Sports Ministry then advised IOA to not include a Chinese sponsor for the Tokyo Games.
‘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 on Tuesday.
‘Our athletes, coaches and support staff, will wear unbranded apparel. We are thankful for guidance by the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports in making this decision,’ the statement added.
Notably, Li Ning was the official apparel partner while the official ceremonial kits are being sponsored by Raymonds.
The two IOA officials also mentioned that the priority is preparation of the country’s Olympic-bound athletes and logistics regarding their travel to Tokyo for the quadrennial Games.
They added that IOA did not want the issue of who made the uniforms to be a distraction for the athletes.
“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 said.
According to sources, IOA is talking to a couple of companies and trying to ensure that the Indian athletes don’t go unbranded at the Tokyo Games, which is scheduled to be held from July 23 to August 8.