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Government has assured entry to Chinese wrestlers for Asian Championship: WFI

New Delhi, Feb 5: The Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) on Wednesday said it has got assurance from the central government that “quarantined” Chinese grapplers will not be denied entry into the country for the upcoming Asian Championship despite fears surrounding the deadly coronavirus. The Indian government has suspended the e-visa facility for the Chinese travellers, fearing the spread of the virus which has claimed 490 lives so far. The WFI, though, is expecting a 40-strong contingent from China at the Championship, scheduled to be held here from February 18 to 23 after receiving assurance from the external affairs ministry.

WFI President Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh said they have requested the external affairs ministry to ensure that visa is granted to wrestlers from Pakistan as well. “Today, I met the foreign minister and I’m extremely hopeful there will be no problem. There is possibility of wrestlers from both the countries competing,” Sharan said. “He has assured me that there will be no problem. After the discussion I don’t think there is going to be any problem,” he insisted. Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju also assured that there will be no problems in getting visas for Chinese and Pakistani wrestlers. “Coronavirus is an epidemic and it is a health issue and the Health Ministry and External Affair ministry is taking care of it. It is sensitive issue but we have to host international events,” Rijiju said.

Asked if getting visa would be an issue, Rijiju said: “We have already committed to the Olympic charter. We already had a discussion with the International Olympic council and we have committed to them that we will abide by the Olympic charter.” The Chinese Wrestling Association (CWA) has written to the WFI, requesting them to help out with the participation of their grapplers in the championship. “China’s federation sent us a request letter saying that 40 grapplers have been checked and none of them have been tested positive for the virus. They have been quarantined,” Bhushan said. The senior WFI though made it clear that the Chinese wrestlers will have to go through the protocol set for the virus detection. “All the wrestlers who will participate will go through all the precautionary measures,” he said.

Sharan also asserted that no wrestler can refuse to grapple with their Chinese rivals, if the Chinese are found to be unaffected by the virus. “This problem is only in 1-2 cities in China and not the entire country and if the wrestlers go through all the tests in China and then again clear the tests by our government then no player can say s/he has come from here and we won’t fight with them.” The WFI has also received a letter from the United World Wrestling (UWW), the world governing body, warning them that no country should be denied participation.

If a country is denied visas, India will risk ban on hosting tournaments. Last year, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) had suspended all Indian applications to host future events after two Pakistani shooters were denied visas to compete in New Delhi. “UWW has also written to us stating that no visa problem should be there as this is a mandatory tournament. When we are allotted a tournament, we have to give them the assurance that no country will be denied participation by us. And if we do something voluntarily then it is an Olympic year and Asian qualifiers are also there. So we don’t want to take any risk that will hurt our wrestlers in an Olympic year. We have written to the ministry of external affairs and attached the copy of the letter.”