Special Correspondent

NEW DELHI: After all the suspense about the Indian women’s 4x400-metre relay team’s qualification for the Beijing Olympics, the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) came up with a stunner on Wednesday that the meets in the just-concluded Asian Grand Prix series were not qualifying events.

The Indian team does not figure in the top-20 relay qualification lists at the moment. There are no listed meets where women’s longer relay is part of the programme, from now on till July 16, the last date for relay qualification.

The shocking news was first noticed in the “best relay performances” list released by the IAAF on Wednesday, based on timings achieved till July 1, and further confirmed through communication with the IAAF Competitions Department.

Unless the Asian Athletics Association (AAA), which seems to have bungled on the communication front with the IAAF, the Athletics Federation of India (AFI) and other affected federations including the Chinese, take up the matter vigorously, there looks little possibility of an Indian relay team making it to Beijing.

India, which was 17th in the June 17 lists in the women’s 4x400 relay, should have climbed into the 14th position had the Korat Asian Grand Prix timing of 3:28.29 been considered (with an average of 3:30.84), but instead it now finds itself out of the top-16 bracket that would have ensured a place in Beijing. With an average timing of 3:33.59, it is probably placed 21st, both its timings coming from meets in 2007.

Elaborate procedure

The IAAF had given out elaborate qualification procedures last year, while the 2008 qualifying events were notified at the beginning of this year. Categorisation of qualification events ranged from National Permit meetings, specially approved in advance, to IAAF World Athletics Series events including all world-level championships, Area Games, Area Championships etc.

The Asian Grand Prix series was deemed to come under the category “Area championships and other intra-area competitions organized by an Area Association”. Or at least that is what one had understood till the IAAF clarified the position on Wednesday.

In a communication to The Hindu, Mr. Carlo de Angeli of the IAAF Competitions Department, wrote: “…in the case of one-day meetings only those whose meeting organisers informed the IAAF in writing (and within the stipulated deadlines) of their intention to stage the relays (and which relays) are included” in the list.

“The meetings in Korat and Bangkok did not provide this information and, therefore, are not on the list. This principle has been applied throughout the year and the Area Associations are aware” of this position.

The IAAF official further explained: "The one day meetings, even if conducted under the Area patronage (such as the Asian Grand Prix series) do not fall into the Area Championships and other intra-Area Competitions organised by an Area Association.” (which are defined by IAAF Rule 1 (f)).

“One-day meetings conducted at the Area level fall, instead, under IAAF Rule 1 (j). The IAAF one-day meetings (IAAF World Athletics Tour) fall into a third category defined by IAAF Rule 1 (e)(i).”

Best timings

The Asian Grand Prix series in 2007 has been included for the purpose of relay qualification and China, which is now 18th in the women’s longer relay, has both its best timings from last year’s Asian Grand Prix series. There is no immediate explanation as to whether 2007 meets were approved in advance or not. China would also have benefited from the Korat timings that were incredibly fast, in women’s 4x400m relay as well as men’s 4x100m relay.

The fact that Botswana flew in to compete in the final leg at Hanoi for the specific purpose of qualifying in the men’s 4x400m relay also suggested that the events were approved in advance. The IAAF explanation gives a different picture.

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