New Delhi: The Indian athletes and officials travelling for the Tokyo Olympics have been asked by the Japanese government to undergo daily COVID-19 tests for a week prior to their departure and not interact with anyone from another country for three days on arrival, strictures that have left the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) fuming.
Stricter regulations have been put in place for all travellers -- including athletes, coaches and support staff -- who have resided in 11 countries, including India, where different variants of COVID-19 have been identified, within 14 days of their arrival in Tokyo.
"The unfair and discriminatory" rules have drawn sharp criticism from the IOA, which has written to the games organising committee requesting it to ensure that mechanisms to prevent COVID-19 do not have any "adverse and detrimental impact" on performance of athletes.
India's COVID-19 situation has improved considerably after a catastrophic second wave with daily cases declining from more than 3 lakh a few weeks back to just over 60,000 right now.
India has been clubbed in Group 1 alongside Afghanistan, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
"Before you travel: You must be tested every day, for seven days, prior to your departure to Japan," the advisory stated for the Group 1 countries.
"Physical distancing: For seven days prior to your departure to Japan, you must keep your physical interaction with all others, including from another team, delegation or country, to an absolute minimum," it added.
On arrival, athletes and officials will also not be allowed to interact with anyone else apart from their on delegation for three days.
"At the Games. You will be tested every day as is the case for all athletes and officials.
"For three days after your arrival in Japan, you will not be able to physically interact with anyone from another team, delegation or country."
Athletes have been asked to check into the Games Village five days before their competition begins.
IOA president Narinder Batra and secretary-general Rajeev Mehta, in a joint statement, questioned the new regulations.
"Athletes are allowed to arrive in the Games Village only 5 days before their event. Now 3 days will be wasted, this is the time the Athletes need to be moving towards their mode to Peak. Highly unfair for Indian Athletes," the joint statement read.
"Where and when will the Athletes have their Breakfast, Lunch Dinner etc during these 3 days, as everyone has food in the Games village food hall where all Athletes and officals of other NOCs are present all the time.
"If Food Packets are being delivered outside the Rooms of the Athletes then who will plan their body requirements like Proteins, food preferences etc and will it not affect the performance of athletes, who will not not get their preferred diet, just 5 days before the Olympics"
Several athletes like weightlifter Mirabai Chanu, wrestler Vinesh Phogat and Javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra are training abroad and will travel to Tokyo from their respective locations.
However, a major chunk of the Indian contingent will leave for the Games from India and the regualations will affect their training.
The IOA questioned the need for the regulations given that athletes from India will be fully vaccinated and will be undergoing daily tests for a week before their departure.
"Where and when will the Athletes practice as practice/training areas are never empty and Athletes and officials of other NOCs are present all the time.
"While we respect any country's decision to keep their country safe and secure, the athletes going out of India will be Double Vaccinated, have RTPCR tests done everyday for last 7 days before leaving...
"...then why make the Athletes suffer at a time when they need to peak, once again highly unfair for Indian Athletes who have worked hard for 5 years to be discriminated against just 5 days before the Olympics," the IOA statement read.