The clamour to boycott Chinese products in sports could be growing in the wake of the killing of 20 Indian soldiers in the Galwan region of the Line of Actual Control (LAC) on June 15. Indian Olympic Association (IOA) secretary-general Rajiv Mehta categorically said that the “country comes first” while its treasurer Anandeshwar Pandey said that it was his “personal opinion that the IOA should snap its sponsorship with Li-Ning”, the kitting partner of the Indian contingent till the Tokyo Olympics.
“It’s my personal opinion that the IOA should immediately snap its sponsorship with Li-Ning. It’s high time that we oppose China and its products. I respect the feelings of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and I believe that the IOA will take a call on this at its Annual General Meeting (AGM) soon… the country comes first and we should all stand united,” said Pandey.
Mehta said, “Li-Ning is a Chinese brand and we have an agreement till the Tokyo Olympics. If there is such a position, then we will have to think… then this issue will be discussed in the IOA General house. No decision is taken at an individual level. We have an agreement with them (till the Tokyo Olympics). They were also our kitting partners during the Rio Olympics. But we are with the country first.”
The IOA General house consists of presidents and secretaries of the national sports federations (NSFs) besides chiefs and secretaries of state Olympic associations.
The IOA had signed a deal with Li-Ning in May 2018 till the Tokyo Olympics and as per the agreement the company would sponsor training apparel, leisure wear and footwear to Indian contingent, including officials, for the 2018 Jakarta Asian Games, the 2018 Olympic Youth Games and the Tokyo Olympics. The total value of the deal is estimated to be between R5-6 crore.
The company was in the news during the 2016 Rio Olympics when it had reportedly lodged a complaint with the IOA about three sportspersons wearing rival brand apparel during competition.
On two major sporting events — the Asian Beach Games (Nov 28-Dec 6, 2020 at Sanya, China) and the 2022 Asian Games (Hangzhou, China) — Mehta said, “It’s too early to comment on the two events right now, but we stand in support of the country. So far, there is no guideline for such an act by the government but IOA would rally behind the PM’s call,” said Mehta.
The Indian Weightlifting Federation (IWF) secretary Sahdev Yadav said, “All Indian sports federations should start boycotting Chinese sports products. There is no need to play sports if it is not possible without Chinese products. The IWF wants everyone to follow the PM’s call against Chinese products.”
The Badminton Association of India (BAI) secretary Ajay Singhania said, “Whatever decision is taken by our Hon’ble PM in the best interest of the nation, we welcome it and stand by it.”