Indian Sports In Turmoil As Government Serves An Ace
The Indian Olympic Association (IOA) and National Sports Federations (NSFs), affiliated to it, have been living a myth and selling it to the government that they function under an Olympic charter and are answerable only to International Olympic Committee (IOC).
But this myth was busted with union sports ministry deciding to limit the terms and tenure of office- bearers of the Indian Olympic Association and NSFs. This created a panic among the the chieftains of NSFs who for the first time are feeling the heat and are nervous about the impending loss of their unbridled power.
For last six decades the IOA and NSF’s have been resolutely resisting any government attempt to limit their terms and tenures saying they are autonomous bodies and any interference by the government will lead to India’s derecoganation by the world body.
This is also a big lie. There are dozens of National Olympic Committees (NOCs) which are run by the governments and IOC has never raised any objections on them. NOCs belonging to most of the Middle East countries, Africa, China, North Korea, Saudi Arabia are run by the governments and these countries never faced the threat of isolation.
Another impression is that IOC runs without the help of the governments. It is totally wrong. Since the 1930s Olympic movement has been polticised and the governments have played a leading role in shaping its destiny.
Germany hosted the 1936 Olympics in Berlin and Hitler wanted to showcase the superiority of the Aryan race over the others and it was left to “black athlete” Jesse Owen of the USA to shatter the dictator’s belief of racial superiority by winning four gold medals.
In 1972, Munich Olympics hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons when Isreali athletes were killed by the PLO terrorists. The 1976 Montreal Olympics was boycotted by the African countries protesting partheid. The 1980 Moscow Olympics was reduced to a farce with USA and its allies boycotting it protesting the then USSR’s occupation of Afghanistan. In 1984, the Soviet Union returned the compliments by not taking part in the Los Angeles Olympics along with its allies.
Hosting the Olympic Games has now become a national prestige and last year US President Obama—first year into his presidency—staked his personal reputation and flew to
Copenhagen to campaign for Chicago’s bid for the 2016 games. The USA lost and bid was won by Rio de Janeiro, with Brazil’s president Lula leading the charge from the front. Even in Asia, India faced a tough time in 1962 Jakarta Asian Games, when violent mobs tried to attack GD Sondhi for his alleged support to Israel.
Coming home, it is the Government of India which is spending the tax-payers’ money with impunity just to host the Commonwealth Games. The IOC and other international federations’ charters make it very clear that while making a bid for any world event, the host country should also submit a declaration from its government that it supports the bid.
In India, all the sports activities barring cricket and to some extent golf are dependent on financial help given by the government. The state pays for the national championship, national camps, coaching, sending teams abroad, hiring foreign coaches, daily allowances of the players and officials when they are in a foreign country and takes care of their boarding, lodging and air fare. The total money runs into crores and the IOA’s and NSFs’ lame argument is that government’s money is spent on the players and not on the federations.
But who selects the players, who holds the camps, who decides teams, foreign trips,who decides about the officials going with the teams abroad—the federations and not the government. If federations are so zealous about their autonomy why don’t they arrange or raise their own resources? Instead for the last six decades they have never bothered to make their federations professional, never encouraged the experts or professionals to improve the level of the sports, because they visualised them as a threat to their fiefdom.
The IOA has not been able to hold the national games regularly while several federations don’t conduct their nationals in time. The Federation officials decide among themselves who will go with the team abroad at the government expense. Last year Indian hockey team went everywhere except perhaps North Pole and Antartica. In the name of preparing the team for the World Cup, the officials just went on a spending spree. They never had it so good. One official went as a manager, then as a consultant and to cap it all as a chef de mission at the time when Hockey India (HI) bosses were saying that they have no money to pay to the players. And India playing at home finished eighth in the competition. In some small or not wellknown NSFs there has been allegations that selection for teams going abroad is totally arbitrary and another serious allegation is that the officials accompanying the team don’t give the players their full allowances.
The IOA and NSFs work on the maxim: Head I win Tail you lose. When they are pitted against an international federation they evoke country’s Constitution and when against the government they bring in IOC charter. Two months back India held the Hockey World Cup. According to Federation of Internation Hockey (FIH) Constitution, the event can be held only in that country which has an elected body. In case of India, there was no elected body as newly set up HI got involved in several court cases.
FIH threatened that it would not hold the World Cup in Delhi unless there is an elected HI. The IOA told the FIH that it will have to accept the ad hoc HI as there are several cases pending in state high courts and “we are bound by the law of the land”. The FIH was left with no choice but to accept the IOA’s contention and World Cup was held against the very charter of FIH.
Now when it comes to holding elections to the IOA or limiting the terms of the office-bearers, as per the direction of the High Court, the same IOA starts reading the IOC charter to the government. The sports ministry’s notification restoring the 35-year-old guidelines with amended tenure clause for office-bearers of the NSFs and the IOA has raised the hackles.
In August 2002, the then Sports Minister Uma Bharti had agreed to the demand of the officials to keep the tenure guideline in abeyance. The amended tenure clause, in fact, is in favour of the officials. It restricts the term of a president of a federation to a maximum of 12 years with or without break (up from eight previously) and that of the secretary
and the treasurer to two terms of four years each.
Guidelines Will Boomerang—Prof. Vijay Kumar Malhotra
Senior vice president of Indian Olympic Association (IOA) Vijay Kumar Malhotra has charged the sports minister with sabotaging the preparations of the Commonwealth Games by coming out with ridiculous guidelines when the mega event is only four months away.
When asked why he was so strongly opposed to the government’s regulations, Prof Malhotra without mincing words described the guidelines issued by the sports ministry as devious and sinister. “It appears that under the guise of these guidelines, plans are being readied to make the exit route for the Prime Minister, most of his cabinet colleagues and Delhi Chief Minister.”
To a query as to why he was against the retirment age fixed at 70 years, he shot back: “If a persons above 70 years is not found fit to run a sports federation, how can a person nearing eighties can run the Indian government or for that matter Delhi state.” He added: “If 70 years are the criteria, then half of the Union Cabinet will have to go.”
Should there be no restriction on sports federations? To this question, Prof Malhotra said: “I want to know the reason behind reviving these 35-year old guidelines, a leagacy of infamous Emergency, that too when the Commonwealth Games commission is in the capital to oversee the progress of the infrastructure relating to the Games.”
“Where was the need to create unnecessary controversy at this stage.” He asserted that there are around 200 national olympic committees in the world and none of them is being run by such type of guidelines. “The sports ministry cannot pick and choose while citing the examples from some other countries. “USA has President for two terms (eight years) but in India Pandit Nehru and Mrs Gandhi continued to be Prime Minister till their death.”
“The Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) is headed by Shiekh of Kuwait for last decades; Mr Antonio Samaranch had been president of IOC for over two decades. There are examples galore so the sports ministry should stop twisting the facts.” Prof Malhotra, who is also president of the Archery Association of India (AAI) said that these guidelines are a direct assault on the autonomy of the IOA and NSFs.
He also refuted the sports ministry’s often-repeated charge that government finances the NSFs. “Let me bust this myth once and for all. The government pays only Rs 15,000 to 20,000 per month to an NSF as a pay for the person who is incharge of the office, all other expenses on travel charges, hiring of a foreign coach or conducting of nationals are incurred directly by the ministry. NSF does not come into the picture and all accounts are audited by CAG.”
Prof Malhotra said at a time “when we should be using our energies on the preparations of the Games, the sports ministry has started playing tricks with the IOA and NSFs. He however warned that ministry’s bid to hold the IOA and NSFs to ransom will not succeed.
Sports Minister MS Gill should have gone through the history of the Olympic movement in the country. Before this, several attempts were made to dilute the autonomy of the IOA and NSFs but all failed and this time also these attempts will boomerang, he said. (HSB)
The secretary and the treasurer shall be eligible for standing for re-election to the post after a minimum interval of four years. Further, there will be a retirement age of seventy years for all members and office- bearers. According to the sports ministry this brings the tenure regulation in line with that of IOC. The above mentioned tenure limit will come into operation with immediate effect for all elections conducted henceforth.
However, there is a very important clause in this, which is that in the case of existing office-bearers who are attracting the above restrictions, but were duly elected to their posts, and are currently serving their tenure, the tenure limit will be enforceable only after the expiry of the current tenure.
This clause effectively silenced those who alleged that notification was issued just four months before the Commonwealth Games and it would effect the preparations. As per the ministry regulation, IOA president Suresh Kalmadi and several others like Cycling Federation of India (CFI) president Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa, Badminton Association of India (BAI) president VK Verma, Judo Federation of India (JFI) chief Jagdish Tytler, AAI president VK Malhotra, NRAI chief Digvijay Singh and several others will not be able to seek re-election.
Time To Tame Kalmadi
There is no denying the fact that Delhi seems far from prepared for hosting the Commonwealth Games. We may still be able to manage the things just before the commencement of the games, but objectively speaking, the Organising Committee of Commonwealth Games (OCCG) has failed to do its job properly. Mr Suresh Kalmadi, the head of Indian Olympic Association and the head of the OCCG, cannot excuse himself for the sordid affairs relating to the preparations.
In the past this Micaville of Indian sports always took shelter under “Independence of Olympic Movements from the Government” to make Indian sports ministers dance to his tune. Now his game plan seem to be different. He wants to take on the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) and using national sentiment against “international interference”. Kalmadi’s open criticism of Mike Hooper, the CEO of Games appointed by the CGF, is part of this plan, though he has shown rapprochement recently.
The CGF head Michel Fennel, during his last visit to Delhi, openly came out to say that the city is not prepared and the OCCG needs to work overtime for the successful staging of the games. During the last three decades of his monarchy of Indian sports, Kalmadi never got such heat under his seat, which he now cleverly wants turn on to some one else.
It is a common practice that when an international sporting event like Olympics, Commonwealth Games or Asian Games are awarded to a city, an Organising Committee is constituted with officials of the National Olympic Committee, the host city and the country’s sports ministry. Take the example of London Olympics, 2012. The British National Olympic Committee constituted the London Olympic Organising Committee headed by Sebastian Coe, a reputed British Olympian and not with the head of their Olympic Committee.
They have constituted a high level body called Olympic Board which includes the Olympics Minister Tessa Jowell, Mayor of London Boris Johnson, British Olympic Association Chairman Colin Moynihan and London 2012 Organising Committee Chair Sebastian Coe. This Board under alternative chairmanship of the Olympics Minister and the Mayor of London meets every months to provide strategic guidance and oversee the progress of their preparations for 2012 Olympics.
Take also the instance of the last Commonwealth Games held in 2006 at Melbourne. In fact, Melbourne
hosted the most successful Games in Commonwealth history. The authorities there had a very cohesive organisational set-up, supported by a legislation of the State of Victoria. Incidentally, Kalmadi and Company had gone many a time to Melbourne to get the finer points of the staging of 2006 Games. But it seems he did not learn anything.
What has India done? Or what Kalmadi let us do? He kept every part of the Organisation tightly under his belt. He kept chairmanship of the OCCG for himself. Its General Assembly is as big as Indian Parliament with 500 members, most of whom are either fancied by him or who fancy him! Its Executive Board, which he heads, includes few nominees of Ministry of Sports, few officials from Delhi Government but several of his “yes” men.
When the then union Sports Minister Mani Shankar Iyer tried to challenge Kalmadi’s self-aggrandised plan of Delhi Games, he successfully sidelined the Minister and finally got his sports portfolio stripped off. The Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has to share some responsibility for his misjudgment, which gave Kalmadi a free run like a bull in the China shop.
The basic root cause of the fiasco of our unpreparedness is due to lack of coordination among the prime stakeholders. There is no event of this magnitude in the history of sports in which a National Olympic Committee kept key partners like the political chief of the host city and the country’s Sports Minister at arms length. If at all there has been any coordination amongst the key partners, it is very loose and not produced any result. This is the crux of the problem.
We could have followed the London Olympics model to constitute a high-level body headed by the CM of Delhi or the Sports Minister with full powers to oversee the preparations on regular basis. Generally speaking, the international sports bodies resist the governmental interventions in the actual conduct of games. Here, the case is different. In fact, Commonwealth Games Federation would have welcomed such a move, as it is more worried than our government abut the mismanagement of Indian Olympic Association and the OCCG.
The major advantage of Delhi CM heading this kind of body is that the Government of Delhi has the crucial resources in its hands such as accommodation, transport, and hospitality. It is in the interest and reputation of the host city that the CM should take the lead. This kind of high-powered body could also include the foreign experts appointed by the Commonwealth Games Federation for better coordination. Such move also prevents any tactics of Kalmadi putting one against the other.
Be that as it may, given Kalmadi’s record, it is high time to control this self-appointed sports monarch.
The author, a former IAS officer and UN official, has two decades of experience in sports management.
By BVP Rao
Most of the elections are slated to be held either in 2011 or 2012. What prompted the ministry to come up with these guidelines was the observations made by the Delhi High Court in an ongoing public interest litigation and by the strong views expressed by MPs in the Parliament.
Perhaps for the first time in recent memory, the sports ministry got such a massive public support that it has unnerved the unchallenged chiefs of the NSFs. The rattled NSFs chiefs are not going to give up that easily. They have already started questioning the motives of the government and sports minister MS Gill.
Sports journalist body backs government move
For the first time in the recent years, Sports Ministry has found an unlikely but very important ally-the media. While Indian Olympic Association and National Sports Federations (NSFs) officials were blasting the government for introducing the guidelines to limit their terms and tenure, the Sports Journalists Federation of India (SJFI) gave thumbs up to Sports Minister MS Gill for enforcing the regulations.
Leading sports journalists of the country were of the view that government’s move was correct and timely to put reins over the IOA and the various NSFs. The sports journalists from all over the country, at their convention in Panaji (Goa) endorsed Mr Gill’s efforts to fix age and tenure limit of office-bearers of the various sports federations.
Asked to comment on a simple one-liner, “do you agree with Sports Minister, Gill’s move to limit tenures of national federation heads”, over 99 per cent of the 70-odd journalists from 16 states attending the convention felt that what the Sports Minister was doing was right. Only less than one per cent said they did not agree with the move. The opinion poll was the second to be done at the convention in as many days. On the opening day when asked, “will the Indian Premier League continue to flourish even in the absence of the now suspended Lalit Modi”, 94 per cent of the participants picked up “yes” as their response while the rest said “no”. (HSB)
IOA chief Suresh Kalmadi and other upset bosses of sports bodies have vowed to protect their autonomy. “We are surprised by the government order. It is a draconian order which questions the very basis of the autonomy of IOA and NSFs. We reject the brazen attempt by sports ministry to challenge our autonomy, said Kalmadi.”
Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) president GS Mander wondered as to how can government debar anyone from contesting the elections. But he forgot that even the IOC, whose charter is being quoted as a holy script, has retirment age (70 years) and tenure
limit (three terms).
Mander put up another flawed argument saying that if the policy is followed, federations will lose clout in international bodies. “There are many federation officials who over a period of time develop good relationships with the international federations and it is of great help. The president of international wrestling federation is my good friend and that is the reason we got a special course for coaches here, “he said but forget that all such federations’ bosses are not dependent on their government’s doles.
SPORTS AND POLITICS ARE INSEPARABLE
The founder of the modern Olympic Games, Baron Pierre De Couberton visualised the Olympics to be a sporting event free from the influence of politics but as the old saying goes that man being a political animal, he could not let politics be separate.
It is indeed rather unfortunate over the years since the modern Olympic movement was revived in 1896 with the first being held in Athens, Greece, where the world’s biggest sporting event took birth, the reality of his vision has died out and inevitably political issues and ideas began surfacing in the Olympic games just as much as they began appearing in the ordinary sports world.
In fact, the Olympics which is hailed as one of the biggest sporting events in the world held every four years became a symbol of nations showing their prowess as a mighty power as Adolf Hitler did in 1936 in Berlin.
The way sports was manipulated for taking forward a nation’s political resurgence is brought out very vividly in Martin Barry Vinokur’s book More Than a Game. In his book he paints with deft strokes of his pen of how politics and sports are inextricably linked and this is clearly seen how the erstwhile countries behind the Iron Curtain East
Germany, Romania and also the erstwhile Soviet Union used the sports arena to show their might.
One could even go to the extent of saying that the Cold War too was fought on the Olympian fields as till 1990s the top two positions in the medals tally at the Olympic Games was between USA and Russia while the third place invariably went to the erstwhile East Germany. So, clearly the battles which if not fought on the battlefields were fought in the sports arena with the Olympic Games invariably becoming the venue with ideological fervour coming to the fore.
Even take the 2008 Beijing Olympics where the Chinese not only made it a showcase for their country but also saw them emerging as the world’s leading sports nation topping the medals defeating the USA.
Looking back into the history of
the Olympics, politics was never far behind and it became very blatant at the 1936 Berlin Olympics where Nazi Germany under Adolf Hitler sought to project the “Aryans” as a superior race.
The Nazi dictator took the games as an opportunity to show off the post-First World War Germany. In 1936, a number of prominent politicians and organisations called for a boycott of the 1936 Summer Olympics, which had been awarded to Germany before the Nazi regime came to power.
The Spain’s Popular Front government decided to boycott the games but the Spanish civil war broke out just as the games began.
The United States too was weighing the pros and cons of boycotting the Games but finally decided to participate and the Americans going to Berlin proved to be a blessing as African-American Jesse Owens virtually shattered the myth of Aryan supremacy when he won four gold medals and it was at the Berlin Olympic Stadium where India took the podium for a gold medal under the hockey wizard Dhyan Chand.
A story that continues to do the rounds is about Hitler asking Dhyan Chand what he was in the Indian Army and when he was told of the rank, the dictator had reportedly told him that he would have made him a general in his army because of the talent he possessed.
French Olympians gave what appeared to be the Hitler salute at the opening ceremony, although they may have been performing the Olympic salute, which is similar. Both are based on the Roman salute.
American sprinters Sam Stoller and Marty Glickman, the only two Jewish athletes on the US Olympic team, were pulled from the 4 × 100 relay team on the day of the competition, leading to accusations of anti-semitism on the part of the United States Olympic Committee.
Twenty years later at the Melbourne Olympics in 1956, the event was affected by boycotts by Egypt and Iraq in protest of the Israeli invasion of Egypt. The Netherlands, Spain and Switzerland boycotted in protest of the Soviet Union’s invasion of Hungary during the Hungarian uprising.
The political frustrations between the Soviet Union and Hungary boiled over at the games themselves when the two men’s water polo teams met for the semi-final. The players became increasingly violent towards each other as the game progressed, while many Hungarian-Australian spectators were prevented from rioting only with the sudden appearance of the police. The match became known as the Blood in the Water match.
The 1964 Tokyo Olympics saw the expulsion of South Africa from the Games because of its apartheid policy and was readmitted into the Olympic Movement in 1992 at the Barcelona Games.
Four years after Tokyo, at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics, American athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos, who won gold and bronze medalists, gave the black power salute during the American national anthem star spangled banner. The action was deemed to be against the principles of the Olympic Games and the two athletes were expelled from the Olympics. However, they were hailed as heroes by the American Civil Rights movement.
These Games were also used a platform by students in Mexico City who sought to draw media attention against the authoritarian character of the Mexican government. The Mexican government reacted with violence, culminating in the Tlatelolco Massacre of October 2, in which more than two hundred protesters were gunned down by government forces.
Politics again intervened at Munich in 1972, with lethal consequences. A Palestinian terrorist group named Black September invaded the Olympic village and broke into the apartment of the Israeli delegation. They killed two Israelis and held nine others as hostages.
The terrorists demanded that Israel release 234 Palestinians prisoners. When the Israeli government refused their demand, a tense stand-off ensued while negotiations continued. Eventually the captors, still holding their hostages, were offered safe passage and taken to an airport, where they were ambushed by German security forces. In the battle, 15 people, including the nine Israeli
athletes and five of the terrorists, were killed. After much debate, it was decided that the Games would continue, but proceedings were obviously dominated by these events.
The 1976 Montreal Olympics was marred by boycotts as also charges against the former East German athletes for using stereoids. The Games was boycotted by 26 African countries to protest against the visit to South Africa by a New Zealand rugby team since South Africa had been barred from international sports events because of it sapartheid policy. However, it was the1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow which witnessed the largest boycott in Olympic history with USA and 61 other countries protesting against the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.
In the same year, the Winter Olympics at Lake Placid, New York too got mired in a controversy as plans were afoot to convert the Olympic athletes’ dormitory facilities into a state prison afterwards. This made legal history when the National Moratorium on prison construction won a court ruling allowing its use of the Olympic symbol on a poster as protected speech. Clearly angered over the boycott of the Moscow Games, the Soviet Union and 14 other countries belonging to the Eastern Bloc including East Germany, Cuba and 14 other countries boycotted the Los Angeles 1984 Summer Olympics.
This was also the first time the People’s Republic of China participated, having protested the Republic of China’s presence in previous Olympics. Boycotts appeared to be protest mode as the 1988 Games in Seoul, South Korea saw North Korea boycotting as it was still technically at war with South Korea. Albania, Cuba, Ethiopia, Madagascar, Nicaragua, and Seychelles also followed suit. Close on the heels of the politics coming into play at the Olympics,the corporates too began to indulge in their politicking as was seen in the selection of venue for the1996 Games which went to Atlanta.
The process of choosing a location for the Games had itself become a commercial concern; allegations of corruption rocked the International Olympic Committee, in particular with reference to Salt Lake City’s bid to host the 2002 Winter Olympics. It was also widely rumored that the Coca-Cola Company, a key IOC sponsor, was highly influential in the 1996 Summer Olympics being hosted by its home city of Atlanta.
Since the beginning of 2008, especially during the protests of the torch relay of 2008 Summer Olympics, the prospect of boycotting the 2008 games in Beijing grew. The protesters’ aims are not only the human rights of Mainland China, but also the independent campaign and violence of Tibet.
Another major factor was the Chinese support for the regime in Sudan, which is accused of committing genocide in the Darfur region which led to renowned film maker Steven Spielberg pulling out as artistic director of the games.
US president George W. Bush committed to attending the opening ceremonies. Ultimately, no nations boycotted the games; though several prominent world leaders such as German Chancellor Mrs Angela Merkel and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown did not attend the opening ceremony.
The political issues in 2008 were not simply limited to issues involving China. Russia was embroiled in controversy as the Second South Ossetian War started around the same time as the games. This lent extra weight to the victory of the Georgia Women’s Beach Volleyball Team over their Russian opponents although the two players, Cristine Santanna and Andrezza Martins, were originally from Brazil.
With more and more money flowing into sports the politicisation of sports grew by leaps and bounds for after all the lure of the lucre cannot keep away humans and politicians being what they are known, decided to dig deep into sports. Whether it is the recent Sourav-Chappell episode, or the Pillai story in hockey, politicisation of sports has proved injurious and degrading for sports. If sports is to get back its lost innocence, it must no doubt be freed from this unnecessary, mindless political influence.
By Sri Krishna
Secretary general of National Rifle Association of India (NRAI), Baljeet Singh Sethi is worried but for wrong reasons. According to him: “The order has come at the wrong time. The country is all set to host the Commonwealth Games in just four months. This rule will create uneasiness in the federations”.
He should know that all the office-bearers of the NSFs will continue to hold their post well after the Games as per the guidelines. Then the last bastion of refuge for these officials, IOC member in India Randhir Singh, who has also been IOA secretary general for over two decades, read a riot act to the government saying IOC and Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) do not apove of these guidelines.
But for once Randhir was stumped when the government said it would hold talks with IOC chief Jacque Rogge and also send a senior official to IOC headquarters in Lausanne to explain these guidelines. Autonomy does not mean unbridled power to run sports bodies at the cost of the public exchequer. While announcing the guidelines, the sports ministry has made it clear that it is following international best practices. The IOA has met the match for the first time since Independence.
By Harpal Singh Bedi