Pruned Asiad contingent cleared, IOA left fuming

The agonizing wait for the Asiad-bound Indian contingent was finally over on Tuesday with the government clearing a pruned list of 679 athletes and officials, though not without cutting seven ‘unpopular’ disciplines.

An initial contingent of 942 sent by the Indian Olympic Association was cleared without rugby, modern pentathlon, soft tennis, triathlon, beach volleyball, fencing, bowling, along with women swimmers and divers. The final list has 516 athletes and 163 coaches and support staff.

However, woman lifter Kavita Devi and male lifter Rustam Sarang were dropped and so were eight sailors. Suresh Bishnoi, Arvind Panwar and Sombir from the men’s cycling team and one of the coaches of hockey men team Jude Felix also were among those not accommodated in the final contingent.

Also, many managers of the 28 disciplines for the September 19- October 4 Games at Incheon were axed.

The decision has left IOA miffed. “No team can go without managers. They have a specific role to carry. We will speak to the ministry on the matter tomorrow,” IOA secretary general Rajeev Mehta told Deccan Herald.

However, prominent disciplines like football and table tennis, which had been under the threat to be dropped from the final list, survived the chop.

The sports ministry which was under pressure to clear the entire list had sought the advice from the Prime Minister’s Office.

Sources said the PMO while clearing the list made it clear that ‘no cost to the government’ should not be the criterion to send a team. It also directed that the guidelines for sending the teams for multi-disciplinary sporting events should be spelled out well in advance.

“The file was cleared by the PMO this morning. The disciplines were picked on the basis of their popularity and performance. Sports like football and table tennis even though they are non-performing got the preference as they are popular,” a top ministry official said.
“It was important for us to cut down on the officials too so we have taken out the managers.”

It is understood that several big politicians at the helm of sports federations threw their weight behind their respective contingents. Also, the Olympic Council of Asia had threatened IOA with heavy penalty if India pulled out of some of the disciplines.
The disciplines that were left out alleged bias by the government.Modern Pentathlon Federation of India general secretary Namdev Shirgaonkar said it was an unfair decision.

“It is a big setback for our sport. We had no influence and that’s why we lost out. Was there any evaluation done by the ministry? What was the criterion to leave out disciplines at the last-minute?” Shirgaonkar questioned.
Senior IOA vice-president Virender Nanavati, who also runs the swimming federation of India, said they were left with no choice but to accept the decision.
“The decision has left so many young swimmers heartbroken. We can’t even come out with a presentation or a protest because the ministry has taken so much time to clear the list.”

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