Pune: Modern Indian women athletes have been spared from carrying sarees during long-drawn opening ceremonies of multi-sports events such as Olympic Games, Asian and Commonwealth Games.
The Indian Olympic Association (IOA) on Tuesday announced that it consulted with all stakeholders, principally athlete representatives and decided to change the ceremonial dress for women athletes from saree to blazer and trouser.
“It is a matter of comfort,” said IOA Secretary General Rajeev Mehta. “We received feedback that wearing a saree for such a long time isn’t convenient for the athletes. Opening ceremonies usually carry on for four-five hours. Also, they need help to wear it, which complicates things for them. So we have decided that men and women will wear similar clothes for the ceremony,” Mehta said in a statement.
The new code will come into effect from the forthcoming Gold Coast Commonwealth Games in Australia from April 4 to 15. Instead of their usual traditional saree and blazer, Indian women athletes will wear blazers and trousers--in fact the entire Indian contingent, both men and women, will wear navy blue blazers and trousers.
Malav Shroff, Chairman of IOA Athletes Commission, endorsed the change of costume. “This change of ceremonial dress is more practical and comfortable for the athletes,” Shroff said.
India’s female athletes wore yellow saris and navy blue blazers at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
Many Indian women athletes have in the past complained about the dress code at the opening ceremonies as they have to wear a blazer over the sari.
A record number of 225 Indian athletes will participate in this year’s Commonwealth Games.
A few athletes had chosen to take the blazer off like Jwala Gutta at the 2016 Rio Olympics and Sania Mirza and a few others were seen without the blazer in their yellow sarees at London Olympics.
But there have also been several athletes who have preferred not to wear the saree at the opening ceremonies. Tennis players Sunitha Rao and Sania Mirza took part in their training tracks at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
Blazers and trousers are definitely more convenient and will save a lot of time, but, at the same time, one may look like a man. Why not blazers and skirts? It’s more feminine.
— Heena Sidhu, Olympian shooter
Indian Traditional saree sidelined: women athletes voice contrasting views
One of the major attractions of the Commonwealth Games or Olympic and Asian Games are their opening and closing ceremonies.
In the opening ceremony, athletes from different nations are paraded and introduced at the stadium. Most countries prefer to flaunt their traditional attire. The case has not been any different for India as the female athletes have been donning the traditional saree and blazer but this is all about to change.
There has been a varied reaction by the female athletes who have welcomed the decision but also asked for it to be left more as a choice rather than a compulsion.
I’ve worn a saree only at the 2010 CWG and 2010 Asian Games… I had to learn how to drape it from an aunt, and I still couldn’t tie it too well. I had to ask others for help. Some athletes are just not used to wearing a saree.
— Heena Sidhu, Olympian shooter
“We should be given a choice. There are those who like to wear trousers and those who like to wear sarees… We should get the top athletes together - 10 people who they think are sensible and have represented the country for a long time. There’s no harm in taking suggestions.
— Jwala Gutta, Badminton player