Japanese world champion Nozomi Okuhara shares travel ordeal in India

Nozomi Okuhara took to social media to narrate her nightmare after being harassed by cab drivers at Delhi airport and not getting any official transportation after arriving in Cuttack, Odisha

Nozomi Okuhara of Team Japan at Musashino Forest Sport Plaza on July 30, 2021, in Chofu, Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Lintao Zhang/Getty Images)

Kimberly Rodrigues

Former Japanese world champion and Olympic medallist shuttler Nozomi Okuhara recently recounted a challenging travel experience during her visit to India, where she fell victim to notorious taxi drivers in Delhi and faced a four-hour wait before being allotted a hotel room in Cuttack, Odisha.

The 28-year-old Okuhara, took to the social media platform fansnet.jp to narrate her ordeal after being harassed by cab drivers at Delhi airport and not getting any official transportation after arriving in Cuttack on Monday (11) to play in the Odisha Open.

She also had to wait for four hours to check in at the hotel and was not provided with a shuttle bus/car for her scheduled 8 am practice session.

An embarrassed Badminton Association of India (BAI) general secretary Sanjay Mishra termed the series of incidents as “unfortunate” and promised that “it won’t happen in future.”

However, in the local organising committee’s defence, the all-powerful BAI secretary general said the ace Japanese shuttler did not send any e-mail informing the logistical details (local travel and accommodation) which could have ensured proper arrangement prior to her arrival.

“I understand what Okuhara must have been through but the fact is that we didn’t receive any email regarding accommodation or transportation from her end. It is a technical issue and a matter of miscommunication. We had no information,” Mishra said.

“It is unfortunate but the moment I came to know about it I spoke to the organisers and provided all help. She is a big player and is our guest and we will ensure nothing of this sort happens in future.”

A former world No. 1, Okuhara, who claimed the Syed Modi International Super 300 title in Lucknow and skipped the Guwahati event the following week, had arrived in New Delhi via Hong Kong on Sunday night.

It was then her ordeal started. The disturbing chain of events began when a stranger put her luggage on a trolley at the Delhi airport and then she was duped by a private taxi driver as she ended up paying 10 times more than what an Uber would have cost her to reach a nearby hotel for an overnight stay.

Arrangements are done for a team and not an individual. However, Mishra also said such an incident would not have occurred if it was an entire contingent travelling because the manager of the squad takes care of the logistical details.

“If it is an entire team (travelling) then the team manager contacts the organising committee and things are arranged immediately. But she was alone and she didn’t contact (organisers), so the organisers didn’t know when she was arriving. It didn’t happen on purpose, it happened by mistake,” Mishra said.

“After arriving in Delhi, she (Okuhara) could have just called the organising secretary or competition manager. It happens sometimes when we travel overseas for an event and there is no one to receive. Nevertheless, it won’t happen again.”

Organising secretary Nileen Kumar, who is also a BAI executive council member, said he had met Okuhara at the hotel but was a bit brazen in his attempt to justify what they think is an unintentional mistake.

“I saw her sitting there in the hotel lobby. BAI joint secretary Prabhakar Rao was also there and we offered our help.

“Players have to send requests for accommodation in a BWF form but we didn’t receive any such communication from her. It is the same for everyone. Since there was no request, there was no room booked for her. Other players, who came from 30 other countries didn’t face any such problem,” Kumar said.

It was Okuhara’s Indian friends, star shuttlers HS Prannoy and PV Sindhu, who spoke to the local members and organised her accommodation.

Prannoy, a world medallist himself, also arranged a car which would take her to training as she wasn’t provided with a shuttle bus allocated for players.

Kumar, the BAI EC member reasoned that Okuhara is only entitled to a shuttle bus pick-up if she is staying in the official team hotel, where she didn’t have a booking, having not filled up the form.

“If you stay in the official hotel, then only you get a shuttle bus. It is not possible for the organisers to get players from other hotels across the city,” Kumar said.

This is not the first such incident as other international shuttlers have also complained about various things over the last three weeks, which saw India hosting Syed Modi International in Lucknow, Guwahati Masters and Odisha Open.

Malaysian Soong Joo Ven had taken to Twitter on December 7, posting a video of muddy brown water coming from a tap in his hotel in Guwahati, while Jessica Tan of Singapore had shared pictures of pigeon poop on the match courts in Lucknow.