New Delhi, India: India on Tuesday dropped Chinese sportswear Li Ning as its official kit sponsor for the upcoming Olympics with the country’s athletes set to wear unbranded apparel in Tokyo.
The decision comes after the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) copped criticism for unveiling Indian jerseys with Chinese branding last week amid strained relations between the two neighbors.
“We are aware of the emotions of our fans and we in a (sic) IOA have decided that we will withdraw from our existing contract with an apparel sponsor,” IOA president Narinder Batra and secretary Rajeev Mehta said in a statement.
“Our athletes, coaches, and support staff will wear unbranded apparel.”
A deadly border clash between the two countries last year sparked calls in India for a boycott of Chinese products and companies.
Cricket’s Indian Premier League suspended their multi-million dollar deal with Chinese phone maker VIVO for one season in 2020 only to get them back on board this year.
But the IOA said it does not want any outside pressure to affect the training of its athletes.
“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.”
The Olympics, which were pushed back a year due to the coronavirus pandemic, are scheduled to be held between July 23 and August 8.