Athletes complain of quality as ‘tug-of-war title’ sponsor outfits team

London Olympics

Indian athletes bound for the Olympics are running into a last-minute hitch they didn't bargain for: ill-fitting and sub-standard training and match kits. Several archers got T-shirts with sleeves ending past their fingers, which had to be refitted. Many have threatened to wear the kits provided by their federation or individual sponsors, junking the official gear provided by the little-known Rohtak-based firm Dida Sports. The firm had been selected by the IOA after a tender process that attracted just three bids.

India's medal hope in lightweight category Jai Bhagwan told The Indian Express: "We are not happy with the kit. They are sub-standard. At least we have the option of wearing our own shoes as they come under 'equipment' category. I have not worn such a sub-standard kit even at inter-district matches. The poor quality and fit of kit can affect movement."

Deepak Juneja, who owns Dida, conceded that the archers' gear had to be refitted, but added, "These things happen... IOA officials came and checked our manufacturing unit in Rohtak."

The little-known company now has its own website, where it lists the "events" it has sponsored: National Atya Patya Championship, National Floorball Championship, state-level half-marathon events, National Wrestling and National Tug-of-War Championship.

IOA secretary general Randhir Singh backed Dida, calling the deal "significant": "This is the first time a firm isn't just providing the kit but paying an amount to IOA that will be distributed among the players." Dida has given Rs 50 lakh, of which approximately Rs 15 lakh was spent on gear for the 74-member contingent.Denying that the quality was inferior, Singh added: "This was the best deal. It was signed only when we were satisfied with the standards."

Shiv Naresh, which dressed the Indians for the Beijing Olympics, and Chinese sportswear firm Li-Ning were the other two companies in the race. Shiv Naresh owner Shiv Prakash said it was the IOA demand for sponsorship that caused them to pull out. "We were only offering the kits."

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