The Indian Olympic Association on Friday rejected the government's proposal to relax Asian Games selection norms for some specific sports, saying the Sports Ministry's concerns have already been addressed while picking the contingent earlier this month. The development comes after the ministry, on July 18, had urged the IOA to relax selection norms in specific cases concerning athletes or sports who/which could not qualify due to lack of exposure or non-participation in ranking events but have a strong chance of either winning a medal or finishing in top four. But the IOA stuck to its earlier criteria of picking athletes -- top six in individual events and top eight in team sports -- after a meeting of its Core Committee and Legal Committee.
"In the letter dated 18.07.2018, the Ministry has asked IOA to find out if any of the athletes or team who could not qualify among top 6 in individual athlete and top 8 in the team to examine whether they can come in top 4 in the Asian Games," IOA president Narinder Batra said in a letter written to the Sports Secretary in response to the earlier missive of the ministry.
"The Core Committee and legal committee of the IOA met today and after detailed discussions and having done complete exercise and those who met the criteria of top 6 and top 8 were accordingly considered and their names have already been forwarded," Batra added.
A top official of the IOA said that it has discussed the ministry's proposal in detail before deciding not to accept it as all suggestions of the ministry are already covered in the existing criteria. "We have looked into the ministry's proposal whether there can be athletes or teams who otherwise could not be selected on the basis of IOA's criteria but have a chance to finish in top four. We have looked into all the sports and we felt that out criteria have covered all the sports," the top official told PTI. "Moreover, our criteria of top 6 in individual events and top 8 for team events are more lenient than the top four as suggested by the ministry and there is no need to change these. So, we decided not to consider the proposal of the ministry." It is learnt that 541 athletes have been named on the basis of the IOA's criteria, which is 17 more than 524 announced earlier this month.
The most notable inclusion is the 24-member bridge team (15 men and nine women) while sports climbing, which was not included in the initial 524, will have three members in the Indian contingent. In the initial list, there were 22 from Pencak Silat, but IOA later dropped 20 from the team, alleging fake credentials. That left only two athletes (all women), but the IOA today added one member -- a male athlete -- in the Pencak Silat team.
The IOA is expected to submit the list of the contingent (both athletes and officials) in a day or two after finalising the number of officials. It is learnt that the IOA is likely to recommend more than 200 officials, including the NOC officials like the chef-de-mission and his four deputies and other support staff. The IOA may also recommend some extra officials to be sent on the cost of the federations.
Earlier, the sports ministry had urged the IOA to relax selection norms in specific cases "in the larger interest of sports and sportspersons" after concerns were raised by various athletes and teams that have missed the cut. The ministry said the Olympic body, in consultation with particular federations, may reassess the earlier decision on sending entries if those ineligible disciplines have performed consistently well for six months but could not make it due to lack of exposure and at the same time have a strong chance of finishing in the top four. "This Ministry has framed those guidelines for sending entries of athletes/teams for participation in multidisciplinary events like the Asian Games (on March 10, 2015).
However, of late, there has been concerns raised from various quarters ... that many deserving sportspersons/teams are not able to participate due to their inability to meet the above guidelines because of various reasons, inter-alia, due to less exposure in tournaments, restrictive spread, etc," the Ministry had said in the letter. "Accordingly, a view has emerged in this Ministry that specific relaxation of the norms prescribed may be considered by this Ministry purely on merits to allow sending of entries of teams/athletes for such sports disciplines which are otherwise not eligible for participation in the Asian Games, 2018, to be held in Indonesia in the larger interest of sports and sportspersons," it had added.
Official sources in the ministry had said that the proposal was made as the government wanted performing athletes to take part in the Asian Games with an eye on maximising the medal tally at the quadrennial event. "But the judgement is left to the IOA and the NSFs," government sources have said.