CHENNAI: It was 524 in the beginning of July. That number had swelled to 541 by the end of the month. Ten days later, the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) and the sports ministry have finally settled on a number.
After a couple of months of court cases — 11 at the last count — heated arguments over selection policies, allegations of fake certificates and nepotism, and a federation going behind the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) to secure a place, a 572-strong contingent was cleared by the ministry to represent the country in Jakarta and Palembang later this month. The total strength of the contingent will exceed 800 thanks to coaches, managers and other officials.
One of the big losers in the final list was sambo, whose lone athlete, Srikant, was struck off the roster. For a discipline which had seven athletes in the initial list that was released on July 1, it will not even be having an Indian presence. The federation tried to send in a replacement for Srikant who got injured during a training session but IOA apparently rejected their request. Another big decision the IOA made on Friday was to name Neeraj Chopra as flagbearer for the opening ceremony on August 18.
“I am thrilled to be chosen as the flagbearer of the Asian Games. It is a huge honour to be leading the Indian contingent in such a big event,” he said.
“I did not know this as I was not told earlier about this,” he added.
This, of course, means the 20-year-old will have to fly out to Jakarta before the beginning of the Games, something that wasn’t in his original plan. The Asian champion will fly out as soon as his event ends to make it to the Diamond League Final in Zurich on August 30.