Most Indian athletes opt out of Olympic opening ceremony amid Covid fear


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About 30 athletes will be attending the event and competitions lined up the next day

The Indian Badminton contigent left for the 2021 Tokyo Olympics on July 18, 2021. (Photo: @Media_SAI)

Tokyo: Indian athletes from seven sports, including shooting, badminton, archery and hockey, will skip the Olympics opening ceremony on Friday because of COVID-19 concerns and competitions lined up the next day, leaving just about 30 in attendance at the event.

From hockey, only flag-bearer, men's team captain Manpreet Singh, will participate in the ceremony.

"Archery, Judo, Badminton, Weightlifting, Tennis, Hockey (men and women), Shooting, the above are not participating due to matches on 24th, practice sessions on 24th and staying safe," Indian Olympic Association President Narinder Batra said.

"The march past will be in Japanese alphabetical order and India's number is 21st," he added.

IOA secretary general Rajeev Mehta had earlier stated that no more than 50 will attend the ceremony. Only six officials from each country are being allowed take part in the march-past.

"We won't like to create a situation where our athletes are in danger of getting infected. So a decision has been taken to limit the number of athletes and officials participating in the opening ceremony within 50," Mehta told PTI.

At this point, the Indian participation looks like this -- Hockey (1), Boxing (8), Table Tennis (4), Rowing (2), Gymnastics (1), Swimming (1), Sailing (4), Fencing (1), Officials (6).

"Both the flag-bearers, ie, M C Mary Kom and Manpreet Singh are participating in the opening ceremony," Batra said.

The decision was taken after a meeting between chef de mission B P Baishya and coaches here this morning.

India is being represented by more than 125 athletes in the Games with the overall contingent size being 228, including officials, coaches, other support staff and alternate athletes in view of the COVID-19.

Along with the shooters, archers and the men's and women's hockey teams are also scheduled to compete the day after the opening ceremony.

While Mary Kom is not scheduled to compete the next day, Manpreet will be leading the side out for the first Pool A game against New Zealand on Saturday.

"Those who are quarantining are also not allowed," deputy chef de missio Prem Kumar Verma had said about the athletes and officials, who have recently landed in the Japanese city.

Among other countries, Britain will have no more than 30 athletes taking part in the ceremony due to COVID-19 fears.

The UK has 376 athletes in fray at the Games.