Beijing: Under fire for allowing tennis players Sania Mirza and Sunitha Rao in casuals in the Olympic opening ceremony, the Indian Olympic Association on Saturday said the duo did not have enough time to change after a lengthy practice session that brought them to the event at the eleventh hour.
IOA President Suresh Kalmadi said both the tennis players had returned from a prolonged practice session and did not have enough time to deck up in the official saree for last night's march past, hence they turned out in casuals.
"(Chef-de-Mission) K Murugan was in two minds whether to leave them out or allow them in casuals. They had just returned from practice and wanted to go. Personally, their practice was more important for me than attending the ceremony. I'm happy they still wanted to go. Murugan was bit confused and he finally allowed them to attend the ceremony in casuals," Kalmadi said in Beijing.
"We had kept saree for all women athletes and it just happened that they didn't have time to change. The Chef de Mission thought asking Sania and Sunitha not to go could lead to a controversy, so he allowed," he added.
Of all the athletes, paddler Neha Aggarwal wore a saree even though the colour was different from that of another member of the contingent. Kalmadi said there was nothing incongruous in it because it was a conscious decision to have sarees of different colours for the women.
"We wanted to make it colourful and hence they wore sarees of different colours," he said.
About the low turn out in the march past, the IOA chief said that he had advised the athletes, who had competition the next day, to skip the event.
"I did not want them knackered when they compete, for that's the reason they are here. That's why I told them to focus on their events," he said.
Kalmadi said the Indian contingent strictly adhered to the International Olympic Council norms and just six officials were allowed to take part in the march past.