Much to the dismay of top athletes in the contingent, a senior Association of India Universities (AIU) official grabbed the role of flag-bearer at the World University Games (WUG), which opened in the Chinese city of Shenzhen on Friday.
The undersecretary (sports), AIU, Gurdeep Singh, who is also the chef-de-mission of the 69-member contingent, ignored the credentials of athletes like WUG gold-medallist shooter Harveen Sarao, Commonwealth Games gold-medallist shooter, Amanpreet Singh, and CWG medallist archer, Gagandeep Kaur, among others, even as all the other participating countries gave the pride of place to their athletes.
"We tried to convince Gurdeep that it is the right of the sportsperson to be the flag-bearer, but he didn’t listen," said an official accompanying the contingent. "In my entire sporting career, I have never come across an official leading the contingent. There is sanctity attached to holding the national flag and that pride of place should only go to sportspersons," said another official.
Generally, the most decorated player in the contingent is selected for the role. The country’s lone WUG gold-medallist shooter, Harveen Sarao, who had clinched the title in the last edition at Bangkok, should have been chose for the role. "Since Harveen is a WUG champion, she should have been the obvious choice. Today, Gurdeep has made a mockery of sportspersons," said a shooter, who didn’t wish to be named.
AIU secretary-general, Bina Shah, when contacted said she was on leave and would not be able to comment on the issue. Deep Bhatia, who was the coach of the shooting team during the last edition of the Games at Bangkok, said, “It’s the players’ right to be the flag-bearer. I have never seen or heard about an official becoming a flag-bearer. After this act, I would not be surprised if tomorrow officials express their desire to participate in the event by replacing some athlete."