The Pan American Games organizers have chosen to cut 176 swimmers from the Pan American Games entries on the basis that the number of entered swimmers had exceeded the allowed 256. The first move was to cut all athletes who had been entered only in relays. Following that, the Organizing Committee of the Pan American Games started cutting athletes whose entry times had the lowest FINA point totals.
Several involved nations are reported to have sent official protests to the meet organizers over the move, though it’s not quite clear yet who all has been cut from the meet. The American lineup should be unaffected, given that their official 48-swimmer roster had no relay-only entries, and that the American entry times are likely to be in the upper 50% of seed times. The Brazilians, the other dominant nation at this meet, could lose a relay swimmer or two if the decision stands, though their official roster didn’t include individual event entries. Both them and the Candians (who had no relay-only entries) may have an athlete or two in danger of losing individual swims, but with both having relatively compact rosters, they should escape unscathed.
The nations that will be hardest-hit by this are the smaller ones that are still developing their swim programs. With the Pan Am Games set to start in about two weeks, this could put an undue financial burden on these smaller federations who can least afford the hit both in morale and in dollars. Tickets and reservations have surely already been purchased.
The Pan Am Games risk a lot of damage to the reputation of the event with this decision. To post qualifying times and then change those qualifying times after entries are made will make member nations wary of your organization. In this case, it wasn’t a near miss, it was a bad miss in terms of qualifying numbers. The organizers are facing a similar situation with diving, where they were forced to cut from 70 to 60 entries.
The number of swimmers entered, 432, is not an unreasonably high number. For example, this is less than half the number of swimmers (1,022) who participated in the 2008 Beijing Olympics. While that was obviously a facility designed to accomadate more athletes, the number 432 just doesn’t seem like that many to where some should be turned away after entry.