New Delhi: The suspense over the strength of India's contingent at the upcoming Asian Games continued with Sports Minister Sarbananda Sonowal today saying that a decision on the final list of athletes and officials will be taken in the next couple of days.
"The decision will be out in one or two days," Sonowal told PTI without elaborating at the sidelines of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises summit here.
It is learnt that Sonowal has decided to discuss the issue of the size of the Indian contingent for the September 19-October 4 Games in South Korea with Prime Minister Narendra Modi in view of pressure from some National Sports Federations and the Indian Olympic Association.
The officials of his ministry and Sports Authority of India have already made the recommendation on a pruned list said to be smaller than the contingent size of the 2010 Asian Games in China where India had sent 626 athletes and more than 200 officials.
IOA sent a list of 662 athletes (373 men and 289 women) and 270 coach/officials for a total contingent strength of 935 but the SAI and the Sports Ministry have made it clear that the list would be pruned down to less than 700 with medal chances being the criterion.
The SAI said it was in favour of strict application of the criteria that in individual events an athlete should be ranked in the top six while it should be a top eight position in team sports.
Football, table tennis, handball, basketball and sepaktakraw were among the sports which were facing the axe from the Asian Games if this criteria is applied.
The Olympic Council of Asia has, meanwhile, warned India of heavy penalty if it withdraws from these sports.
"We have received news that SAI may be forcing the India NOC to withdraw from Football, Basketball, Handball, Table Tennis and Sepaktakraw. The team draw has already been completed. As per constitution, if the IOA withdraws now, a penalty will definitely be levied and the whole draw will need to be done again," OCA said in an e-mail sent to top IOA officials.
The IOA has also slammed the sports ministry for delaying the announcement of the Asian Games contingent with its Secretary General Rajeev Mehta saying that it would demotivate the athletes.