The Indian Olympic Association (IOA) on Tuesday made it clear that it would not persuade Bhaichung Bhutia to reconsider his pull-out from the Olympic torch relay, saying it respects the national soccer skipper's "personal decision".
The IOA Secretary General Randhir Singh said they had received Bhutia's letter in which he cited his sympathy for the cause of Tibetan freedom as the reason for opting out of the relay to be held in the capital on April 17.
"As far we are concerned, we have a very simple theory. Sports and politics should not be mixed. It is Bhutia's personal decision and we respect that," Randhir Singh told PTI.
"We had extended an invitation to him and we will be happy if he runs but we will not persuade him to change his mind since it is his personal decision," he said.
Asked whether the IOA would rope in a replacement for the Indian football captain, Randhir Singh said, "there are enough runners for the torch relay and we will not have any problem."
Bhutia, a Buddhist,created a flutter by refusing to be a part of the relay, saying he abhorred violence and wanted to show solidarity with the Tibetans, who have been fighting for independence from China.
"I sympathies with the Tibetan cause. I'm against violence but I thought I should stand by the Tibetan people in their fight," Bhutia said, giving a shot in the arm for the growing Tibetan protest to the Beijing Olympic Games.
Apart from Bhutia, former athletes PT Usha, GS Randhawa and Milkha Singh have also been invited to run with the Olympic flame, which has kicked off its 130-day global tour through 135 cities before returning to Beijing's National Stadium on August 8 for the opening ceremony.