The Olympic Council of Ireland (OCI) have confirmed they will be accepting only A standards for Olympic qualifiers and there will be no exceptions to this ruling.
At present this means that no more than six Irish athletes are in line to qualify for London, and in all probability the number of Irish athletes who compete next year could be the smallest Irish representation for many years. The “nomination and selection criteria” document for London has now been agreed by the OCI and Athletics Ireland.
In the clause on eligibility for consideration, “only A standards as agreed by the International Olympic Committee/IAAF will be acceptable”, and, crucially, “the parties agree that they shall not nominate any individual or team eligible to compete . . . unless he/she/they” have achieved the A standard.
This latter clause appears to rule out a repeat of the controversial decision to add three B standard athletes just before the cut-off for the Beijing Olympics, in 2008. Originally only A standards were to be accepted for Beijing, too, but Athletics Ireland nominated three athletes with B standards: Thomas Chamney in the 800 metres, Michelle Carey, in the 400 metres hurdles and Pauline Curley in the marathon, all of three of whom were just below the A standard.
Other clauses in the London 2012 criteria include the qualification period, beginning on May 1st of this year, and ending on July 8th, 2012 (with the exception of the walks and marathon, where qualification began on January 1st of this year); the OCI’s exclusive power to select athletes; plus the OCI’s power to de-select any athlete that fails a final fitness and/or medical test.
The London Olympics run from July 27th to August 12th, 2012, with the track and field programme set for the closing 10 days, so at least there won’t be the early cut-off date for qualification which undermined the Athens Olympics in 2004.
As things stand the majority of Irish athletes still hoping to compete in London will need to break personal bests or, indeed, national records to qualify. The IAAF will confirm the A/B standards for London on April 15th, but these are expected to mirror the standards recently announced for the 2011 World Athletics Championships, set for Daegu, South Korea, in August.