Indian athletes to wear unbranded apparel at Tokyo Olympics

PV Sindhu, who signed on with Li Ning in 2019, seen sporting the brand's logo during a match at the 2021 All England Open. Naomi Baker/Getty Images

The Indian Olympic Association (IOA) on Tuesday decided to drop Chinese sportswear brand Li Ning as its official kit sponsor for the Olympics, announcing that Indian athletes will wear unbranded apparel during the Tokyo Olympics.

Last week, the IOA had unveiled the Olympic kit designed by Li Ning for the Tokyo Games, which led to criticism. It has been learnt that the Sports Ministry then advised IOA to not include a Chinese sponsor for the Games, scheduled to be held from July 23 to August 8.

"We are aware of the emotions of our fans and we in 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 the boycott of Chinese products since tensions had increased at the Line of Actual Control (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.

"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." As per sources, IOA is talking to a couple of companies and trying to ensure that the athletes don't go unbranded at the Olympics.

"We are in discussions with a couple of brands. Let's see how things pan out," the official said.

The official ceremonial kits are sponsored by Raymonds.

The IOA officials said they were aware of the 'dedicated efforts' by the nation's elite athletes and their coaching and support staff and are looking forward to a good performance by them at the Olympic Games.

"We have had an excellent synergy in the ecosystem within IOA, National Sports Federations, Government and other stakeholders coming together as one."