While every other team practises their hardest in the few hours left for the greatest opening of the year – the Rio Olympics 2016 – the Indian Hockey Team was left assembling chairs. The bright and spirited team landed in Rio with their head in the game, only to reach their guest quarters to be greeted by a barren room, save four bean-bags and two chairs.
Considering the fact that that both men and women teams weren’t given the basic necessities that were provided to all the other teams, their Coach Roelant Oltmans wrote to the Chef de Mission, Rakesh Gupta, complaining about the shortage of chairs and television sets at the Games Village and the player’s apartments not being properly furnished.
“Hanging in these bean-seats will lead to injuries on the long-term. Apart from 2 chairs and the 4 bean-seaters, there is nothing in the living room, nothing to hang clothes also,” wrote Oltmans. “For athletes who have to perform at top-level during a longer period of the Olympics, we need proper chairs and tables in the apartments for 6 persons. Actually there are only 2 chairs in each apartment.”
On receiving no reply from the Chef de Mission, he then contacted Hockey India President, Narinder Batra, who took things into his own hands. Taking to social media, Batra brought to light the shameful treatment meted out to the team, and in particular, the apathetic and ineffective behaviour of the Chef de Mission.
Left with no other option, the team, along with the Hockey India High Performance Director, had to resort to visiting the market to purchase 28 chairs and five tables. Adding to the embarrassment, while the other teams sweat it out on the fields and prepare for the big day, Team India sat in their rooms to fix the furniture.
Batra shared pictures of the team sitting in an empty apartment with only four bean-bags, and then of them fixing the chairs and tables in the rooms, with the additional statement-
“While Chef de Mission slept and only appeared for photo opportunity, Hockey India High Performance Director and Hockey Athletes went to Market and Purchased 28 Chairs and 5 Tables.
Shame on You Chef de Mission of India...”
He also said, “ Indian Men Hockey Team Athletes assembling 5 Tables and 28 Chairs purchased by them (Not IOA) on 2nd August, 2016 in Rio, Shame on You Chef de Mission and other IOA staff on Paid Holiday in Rio. Have the Athletes gone there to assemble tables or win Medals...”
In response to this viral outcry against him, the Chef de Mission Rakesh Gupta was quick to be back on the public sphere and grant reassurance to the teams and concerned authorities. In a press release that took place recently, he assured that he had followed up on the request made by the Hockey Teams to provide them with more chairs and television sets by speaking to the Organising Committee on their behalf. However, he added, “The Organising Committee's representative replied, saying 'Unfortunately, Rio 2016 is only providing TVs for the Chef de Mission office and the TV Lounge on the common spaces.” (As stated in The Indian Express)
As a result, the Chef de Mission has offered the hockey team the TV set and the furniture of his office. Gupta’s initial plan was to purchase the required items using the rate card of the Organising Committee, but he later found that they were not available. Thus, he resorted to requesting the Indian Embassy to purchase these items for the contingent.
“Now we have decided to put one TV set on each of the floors and also put additional chairs also. The equipment is expected to be placed in the apartments in the next few days,” said Gupta. He also said that he would provide for paid cable for each of the television sets with the help of the Organising Committee.
Ending his speech, he said that they were trying their best to meet the demands of the Indian athletes to make their stay more comfortable.
“We are trying to make things as comfortable as possible for our athletes, since they are representing our country. All their demands and requests have been met and we are working to ensure this one is also met,” he concluded.