Australia has pulled out of the final baseball qualifying tournament for the Tokyo Olympics due to “insurmountable” challenges amid the global COVID-19 pandemic, the sport’s national governing body said.
The decision comes less than a week after Taiwan’s withdrawal from the tournament on June 22 to 26 in Puebla, Mexico, which was moved from Taiwan due to a surge in COVID-19 cases.
“Attending the Final Olympic Qualifier in a COVID world was always going to present significant challenges,” Baseball Australia chief executive officer Glenn Williams said in a statement. “The planning for Taiwan was extensive and with the late change in location and dates, those plans became obsolete. We worked through multiple options and scenarios, but the logistical challenges of providing a safe environment for the group were insurmountable.”
Australia won a baseball silver medal at the 2004 Athens Games.
Baseball is returning to the Games for the first time since the 2008 Beijing Games. Six nations are to compete for gold in Tokyo, with hosts Japan, Israel, Mexico, South Korea and the US having qualified.
With China pulling out last month, the Puebla tournament is reduced to three teams competing for the final Olympic berth: the Dominican Republic, Venezuela and the Netherlands.
Williams said that even if Australia had won the event, the timing did not allow for the team to complete the mandatory two weeks in hotel quarantine upon returning home and then meet the “requirements of entry” to the Tokyo Games.
“The athletes and staff have worked diligently in preparing for the event throughout the constantly changing landscape,” he said. “It’s really disappointing they won’t have the chance to chase a berth at the Tokyo Olympics.”
Reuters, NEW DELHI
The Indian Olympic Association (IOA) has dropped Chinese sportswear maker Li Ning as its official uniform partner, citing public sentiment in the country.
India athletes are instead to wear unbranded apparel at the Tokyo Games, the IOA said.
Chinese companies have faced a backlash in India since 20 Indian soldiers were killed in a clash with Chinese forces in a Himalayan border dispute last year.
The IOA at that time decided to review its deal with Li Ning, which was due to expire after the Tokyo Games.
It unveiled an Olympic uniform made by the Chinese company just six days ago, but late on Tuesday said that it had ended the association out of respect for the “sentiments of the people of the country.”
“We are aware of the emotions of our fans and we ... 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.
“We would like our athletes to be able to train and compete without having to answer questions about the apparel brand,” the IOA said. “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.”
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