By: Sattwik Biswal
INDIA pulled out of next year’s Birmingham Commonwealth Games’ hockey competition on Tuesday (5), citing Covid-19 concerns and UK’s discriminatory quarantine rules for travellers from the country, a day after England’s withdrawal from the junior men’s World Cup in Bhubaneswar over similar reasons.
Hockey India president Gyanandro Ningombam communicated the federation’s decision to Indian Olympic Association (IOA) president Narinder Batra in a letter.
Hockey India reasoned that there is only a 32-day window available between the Birmingham Games (July 28-August 8) and the Hangzhou Asian Games (September 10-25).
HI said it can’t risk sending its players to the UK, which has been one of the worst affected by the coronavirus pandemic.
“You will appreciate that the Asian games is the Continental qualification event for the 2024 Paris Olympic Games and keeping the priority of the Asian Games in mind, Hockey India cannot risk any members of the Indian teams contracting Covid-19 during the Commonwealth Games,” Ningombam wrote.
“Therefore, Hockey India will not be sending its men and women teams to Commonwealth Games 2022 and are informing you in advance to kindly notify the Organisers to identify reserve teams.”
The possibility of this withdrawal arose a few weeks back when the IOA president said that HI had indicated to him that it was more keen on players being in top form for the Asian Games which is a qualifier for the 2024 Paris Olympics.
Sources in the sports ministry had stated that efforts would be made to persuade HI to send second-string teams instead of pulling out altogether.
The UK recently refused to recognise India’s Covid-19 vaccination certificates and imposed a 10-day hard quarantine on travellers from the country even if they were fully vaccinated.
The discrimination was prominently mentioned in Ningombam’s letter to the IOA president, who has issued instructions for co-ordination with the sport’s world governing body FIH for the details of the reserve teams. Batra heads the FIH as well.
“Such discriminatory restrictions were not imposed on Indian athletes and officials during the recent Tokyo Olympic Games and this 10-day quarantine requirement for vaccinated sports persons will affect their performance,” Ningombam stated.
“We feel these restrictions are biased against India and term it as very unfortunate,” he said.
HI’s move comes a day after England pulled out of the junior World Cup to be held in Bhubaneswar next month, citing a number of Covid-related concerns and taking “note” of the Indian government’s mandatory 10-day quarantine protocol for all UK nationals.
India imposed reciprocal curbs on all British nationals arriving in the country after UK’s steadfast refusal to reconsider its restrictions.
Under India’s new norms, all British nationals arriving here from the UK, irrespective of their vaccination status, will have to produce the result of the RT-PCR test done within 72 hours before travel.
They will also have to undertake two more RT-PCR tests, one on their arrival at the airport in India and the second one on Day 8 after arrival.
Both the Indian men’s and women’s teams reached the medal rounds in the 2018 Gold Coast CWG but lost to England in the bronze play-offs. The men’s team was beaten 1-2 while the women’s team lost 0-6 to England.
The Birmingham CWG would have been first big event for both the teams after their inspirational performances at the Tokyo Games, where the men’s team won a bronze while the women finished a creditable fourth.