The sports ministry and Sports Authority of India (SAI) have axed more than one-third of the Asian Games-bound contingent in their recommendation to sports minister Sarbananda Sonowal, who will take a final call only after consulting with the Prime Minister.
The Indian Olympic Association (IOA) had released a list of 935 members for the Incheon Games, including 662 athletes and 273 coaches and officials. However, SAI has suggested names of only 403 athletes and roughly 170 officials, taking the tally to 573.
The sports which are facing the chop include football, basketball, sepak takraw, handball and table tennis. Besides, several individual athletes too might be offloaded from the flight to Incheon as the ministry has strictly stuck to its policy of taking the performances at the 2010 Asiad into account. According to the criteria, only those who’ve finished eighth or above in their respective sport will be sent for the September 19 to October 4 event.
Expecting fierce backlash from the axed sports federations, Sonowal will be consulting PM Narendra Modi.
Several federation chiefs, including All India Football Federation (AIFF) president Praful Patel, have already met Sonowal in an attempt to save their respective sports from being axed.
The sports minister is expected to talk to Modi on Friday. “He is walking on thin ice and wants to consult the PM before he takes a final call,” a ministry official said. “It is necessary to get everyone on board and the minister felt it is necessary to have the prime minister’s blessings.”
The IOA’s list has 662 athletes (373 men and 289 women) with track and field athletes and shooters making up the biggest chunk. At the Guangzhou Asian Games four years ago, India had sent 625 athletes who returned with 65 medals, including 14 gold.
The SAI has recommended the government approve athletes for only 26 disciplines for the Games, though they expect at least 70 medals. The SAI had last week informed that India will not compete in baseball, bowling, fencing, karate, pentathlon, rugby, soft ball, soft tennis and triathlon because of the athletes’ poor standards.
The IOA, meanwhile, has strongly opposed the ministry’s move to ‘interfere’ with team selections and also accused them of demotivating the athletes. “At a time when our athletes should be focussing on their performance, they are still unclear over their participation,” IOA secretary general Rajeev Mehta said.
OCA warns of action
India has been warned of heavy penalty by the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) if it withdraws teams in a few disciplines in the Asian Games. The Indian Olympic Association (IOA) received an e-mail from the OCA on August 29, which warned IOA of penalty if it withdraws from some sporting disciplines, including football and table tennis, from the Inc heon Games starting next fortnight.
“We have received news that the Sports Authority of India may be forcing the India NOC to withdraw from football, basketball, handball, table tennis, and sepak takraw in the 17th Asian Games,” the letter from the OCA said.
“The team draw has already been completed. As per the constitution, if the IOA withdraws now, a penalty will definitely be levied and the whole draw will need to be done again,” OCA Director of International and NOC Relations Vinod Kumar Tiwari wrote in a mail, sent to top IOA officials.