Aabhas Sharma gives the low down on what really went wrong between IOA and IOC
Some say that trouble was inevitable, given the unprofessional manner in which Indian sports bodies and federations are run and their dependence on the government. But now, with the International Olympic Committee suspending the Indian Olympic Association, the issue of sports management in India has become something of a public scandal. But what exactly did IOA do wrong and what is the road ahead for Indian Olympic sports? We try to answer a few of these questions:
What is the Olympic charter of the IOC and where did India go wrong?
The Olympic charter states that a country’s Olympic committee has “to guarantee its full autonomy; to ensure free and fair elections in conformity with its own statutes and the Olympic Charter; and to implement all basic principles of ethics and good governance in its daily management”. IOC says that IOA faces outside interference (read government) in its elections.
The IOC charter also states that national Olympic committee members must not be older than 70 years and that their tenure should be time-bound. IOA’s outgoing working president, Vijay Kumar Malhotra, is 81 years old and has held the position for close to 30 years. Suresh Kalmadi was IOA president for 16 years. Also, most Indian sports federations are headed by government functionaries.
In October, IOC’s ethics panel had recommended that Lalit Bhanot should pull out of the elections given his alleged involvement in corruption in the 2010 Commonwealth Games. Bhanot, who was elected secretary general in the December 5 elections, defied IOC saying that he hadn’t been proven guilty in court. IOC had also said that the elections should be held with their prior approval, which too clearly didn’t happened.
Do other countries follow the IOC charter? How does it work there?
In terms of government interference and age issues, not many countries break the charter. Let’s look at Olympic superpower China. On its website, the Chinese Olympic Committee states that it is a “non-governmental, non-profit national sports organisation”. Liu Peng, who has been heading it since 2005, is a bureaucrat and was a former deputy secretary of the Communist Party. But since 2005, he hasn’t been involved “actively” in politics, according to media reports. He is given the credit for organising the 2008 Beijing games, one of the best Olympics Games of recent times.
Brazil Olympic Committee is also a non-governmental body. It is headed by Carlos Arthur Numan, a former Olympian in volleyball, who has held numerous posts in sports bodies in Brazil. Nuzman turned 70 this year. In Russia, the Olympic Committee is headed by Alexander Zhukov, a former deputy prime minister.
IOC says that it has been warning IOA about its election procedure for the last two years, but it paid no heed. In 2010, IOC had banned Kuwait for similar reasons and Ghana a year later. Ironically, Kuwait’s suspension was lifted the same day IOA was banned.
What’s the government’s role in the conflict between IOA and IOC?
The government has blamed IOA for the suspension. Sports Minister Jitendra Singh has said that there’s no government interference in IOA elections. The government, Singh has said, will try to do whatever it can to solve the issue.
But can it ensure that politicians to not get involved in sports ?
What’s the way forward for IOA?
The ball is in IOA’s court now and it must get its house in order. But IOA seems adamant that it hasn’t done anything wrong. Soon after he was elected IOA president, Abhay Chautala said that “we have completed a free and fair election under three eminent retired High Court Justices”. He said IOA plans to convince the IOC and explain how the elections were fair. But the only way the suspension could be revoked is for IOA to amend its constitution to meet IOC guidelines. Will that happen? Knowing how Indian sports bodies function, it looks unlikely.