The Indian hockey teams have officially pulled out of the 2022 Commonwealth Games scheduled to be held in Birmingham on July 28. The reason for the Indian team pulling out is due to the COVID-19 situation in the UK and a mandatory 10-day quarantine rule for Indians.
The Indian hockey teams were contemplating not participating in the Commonwealth Games. This is to focus on the Asian Games, which start a month after the Commonwealth Games end. The Commonwealth Games end on August 8 while the Asian Games start on September 10 in Hangzhou, China.
A gold medal in the Asian Games will ensure an automatic qualification for the Paris Olympics 2024.
The decision to miss the Commonwealth Games became stronger after the UK imposed strict COVID-19 regulations.
Calling England the worst affected country in Europe, Hockey India released a statement. They said that the priority would be the Asian Games, which is the continental qualification event for the 2024 Paris Olympics.
This comes after England's junior team pulled out of the Hockey World Cup in Bhubaneshwar next week. They cited India's strict COVID-19 quarantine rules for UK nationals.
Before the COVID-19 restrictions came into force, sources close to the development said India might contemplate sending a depleted team or a secondary team to the Commonwealth Games. The source said:
"By sending a 'B' team or a junior team, it gives the players more exposure and at the same time Indian hockey would not be missing be an event as important as the Commonwealth Games. But we have to see what call the federation takes."
A letter from Hockey India, signed by the president, Gyanandro Ningombam, which is Sportskeeda's possession, said that the UK is one of the worst affected countries by COVID-19. The addition of discriminatory restrictions has forced Hockey India to pull out of the Commonwealth Games. The letter stated:
"It is pertinent to mention that due to the ongoing COVID-19 situation, England have issued guidelines that 10 days quarantine is required for Indian nationals, including for those who are fully vaccinated, since, unfortunately, Indian vaccines are not recognized by the English government.
'Such discriminatory restrictions were not imposed on the athletes and officials during the recent Tokyo Olympics and this quarantine requirement for vaccinated sportspersons will affect their performances. We feel these restrictions are biased against India and term it as very unfortunate."
Hockey team members in risk of contracting COVID-19
The letter further stated that the risk factor of contracting COVID-19 would be immense and that would put the participation in the Asian Games in jeopardy.
"There is only a 32-day window between the conclusion of the Commonwealth Games and the start of the Asian Games. Keeping in mind the priority of the Asian Games, Hockey India cannot take a risk for any members of the Indian teams contracting COVID-19 during the Commonwealth Games.
'Therefore, Hockey India will not be sending its men's and women's teams to the Commonwealth Games 2022 and the organizers may be notified to identify reserve teams for the event."
The Indian men's hockey team resumed their training at the SAI Center in Bengaluru on Monday. Meanwhile the women's team have been camping there for a few weeks now.
Q. Do you think India pulling out of the Commonwealth Games is the right decision, given the reasons?