The Union government on Tuesday finally cleared the names of the Indian contingent for the 2014 Asian Games, ending days of speculations surrounding the athletes participation in the event to be held in Incheon, South Korea, from September 19 to October 4.
The Prime Minister’s Office has approved 679 names — 516 athletes and 163 coaches and support staff — in consultation with the Sports Ministry and the Sports Authority of India (SAI).
The figure is much less than the one sent by the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) to SAI. The original list had a total of 942 names that included 662 athletes and 280 officials. It was pruned by SAI officials and the new list was sent to sports minister Sarbananda Sonowal on August 30 for his approval. However, Sonowal, in turn, forwarded it to the PMO and asked it to take a final call.
The final figure could have been much lower, but the PMO added the disciplines of football (both men & women), handball (men & women) and women’s volleyball to the list.
But sources said this was an exception and is unlikely to be repeated in the future. These disciplines had been initially struck off by SAI as their standards were below the marker set for selection – sixth place for individual events as per the last Asian Games standards and eighth place in team events.
Still, the figure released on Tuesday is far less than the one for the 2010 Asian Games. In Guangzhou, China, 609 athletes and 324 officials were part of the Indian contingent.
Among the disciplines that failed to get the green light are rugby, modern pentathlon, softball, soft tennis, triathlon, bowling, baseball and fencing.
Prominent names who have been axed from the original list include pistol shooter Heena Sidu’s husband Ronak Pandit and Jaspal Rana’s father NS Rana. But Sania Mirza’s mother Naseema Mirza gets to travel with the contingent as manager.
Centre approval must
Interestingly, the government has decided not to allow anybody in ‘no cost to government’ category for major multi-sports events. Starting with the Incheon touring party, the government has decided not to sanction individuals or teams at ‘no cost to government’ for major sporting events. “Sports Code guidelines are very clear in this regard. No federation officials or individual athletes can use the name ‘India’ without getting the government’s approval,” SAI director general Jiji Thomson said.
Earlier, individuals and teams could participate in major events by taking advantage of the ‘no cost to government’ policy, in which the participants or their respective federations would bear the expenses for participation in the event even if they failed to make the national squad.