Visa mess lands athletes in trouble

Ignorant travel agency sends applications meant for Chinese Taipei to Chinese embassy .

A 30-member strong Indian athletics squad could not depart from on time for the Asian Junior Championships starting Thursday in Taipei City with the chief coach claiming that a visa facilitating agency mistakenly sent the applications to Chinese Embassy.

VFS Global, to which the Athletics Federation of India had outsourced the visa procurement work, mistakenly sent the applications to the Chinese Embassy apparently thinking that Chinese Taipei comes under China, according to chief coach JS Bhatia.

The 30 athletes and four officials were to leave for Chinese Taipei on Monday but they had to delay the departure by a day. They will now leave at 1.00 am IST on Thursday. “First of all, it is not the fault of AFI. VFS to which the AFI outsourced the visa procurement job was to be blamed. It sent the visa applications to Chinese Embassy on Friday last. The applications remained at the Chinese Embassy for four days. After the mistake was found out, we had to apply for the visas to the Chinese Taipei representative office,” Bhatia said.

“Luckily, the Chinese Taipei representative office cleared the visas in quick time. It took just a couple of days. We got the visas today and we are leaving after midnight,” he said. The delayed departure may not be good news for some of the athletes as they are likely to miss their events or may have to take part within hours of their arrival in Taipei City. The events start at 8.00 am at Chinese Taipei local time (5:30 am IST) on Thursday. Sprinter Dutee Chand may have to miss her event thanks to the goof-up as the 100M heats are scheduled at 9.00 am.

The development also meant that Indian athletes missed the opening ceremony of the Championships which was held on Wednesday.

When told that some of the athletes may miss their events as they are reaching Chinese Taipei on Thursday morning, Bhatia said, “We have to see after reaching there (in Chinese Taipei). The problem has happened and we have to see what happens.
”“But, we are not leaving out anybody. We are taking all the 30 athletes,” he added.Team manager Jyotirmoyee Sikdar’s visa was cleared at the last minute as she was told to re-submit her photo according to the visa requirements.

“I was told to change my photo submitted along with visa application form. I submitted the photo again and now I have got the visa and we are leaving after midnight,” she said.

According to the tournament schedule on the website of the Asian Athletics Association, Amolak Singh and Ankit Saini have Decathlon 100M event at 9:10 am local time. Medal contender Dutee Chand and Himashree Roy have women’s 100M heat races at 9:20 am local time.

Other athletes who are scheduled to be in action on the opening day are Anuj Singh (men’s pole vault final), Prakash Singh and Kapil Mann (both men’s hammer throw final), Navjeet Kaur Dhillon (women’s shot put), Sanjivini Jadhav (women’s 5000m final) and Vijaya Kumari G K (wo­men’s 400m heats).

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