Olympics start: Low-key attendance from India

Tokyo: A total of 20 Indian athletes from seven sports and six officials will participate in the Olympics opening ceremony today as Covid-19 concerns and competitions lined up the next day led to a majority of the contingent deciding to stay away from the event.

Athletes from sports like shooting, badminton, archery and hockey, will skip the ceremony as the Indian delegation is not willing to expose them to the risk of contracting the virus with their events lined up on Saturday. From hockey, only flag-bearer, men’s team captain Manpreet Singh, will participate in the ceremony.

The list of 20 attendees include four paddlers, including Manika Batra and A Sharath Kamal, and as many sailing team members.

Lone fencer C A Bhavani Devi, gymnast Pranati Naik and swimmer Sajan Prakash besides as many as eight boxers will also be there. Apart from MC Mary Kom, who is also a flag-bearer alongside Manpreet, Lovlina Borgohain, Pooja Rani, Amit Panghal, Manish Kaushik, Ashish Kumar and Satish Kumar will participate in the ceremony.

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.

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.

“Both the flag-bearers ie M C Mary Kom and Manpreet Singh are participating in the opening ceremony,” Batra said. The six officials who will be part of the event are India’s Chef de Mission Birender Prasad Baishya, Deputy Chef de Mission Dr Prem Verma, Team doctor Dr Arun Basil Mathew, manager of table tennis team MP Singh, boxing coach Muhammad Ali Qamar and gymnastics coach Lakhan Sharma.

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 said.