IOA Does Not Want India To Be Out Of Olympic Movement
Indian Olympic Association (IOA) and National Sports Federations (NSFs) are annoyed and upset. They feel that they are not getting fair chance to present their case against the impending Sports Development Bill.
A senior sports administrator Tarlochan Singh says: “The Government and its Sports Ministry have unleashed a virulent campaign against the IOA and NSFs and our point of view is not being properly heard. Every issue has two sides and it is the function of the media to hear and understand both points of view. But unfortunately in this case (Sports Bill) only the Government’s view is being propagated and our views are ignored or laughed at.” He feels that there is a deep-rooted conspiracy behind all this frantic frenzy. According to him, government wants to capture the IOA and NSFs and Sports Ministry is raising the bogey of Commonwealth Games to bulldoze its way.
IOA Acting Chief Vijay Kumar Malhotra is fuming with anger: “A vilification campaign has been launched against the IOA and NSFs to tarnish their image and paint all the officials involved with them as corrupt, anti-democratic and despotic. The government is making it look as if we are foreigners who have captured the sports federations and it pains me when I see some people well versed with sports and its administration refuse to listen to other point of view.” He further said: “There are only seven months left for the Olympics. Is this the time for such bickering? We should all be concentrating on the preparations of our squad for the mega event but instead Sports Minister Ajay Maken is egging on the sportspersons to form a front against the federations.”
Questioning the motives of the government Malhotra said: “IOC has already cautioned the Indian government against any dilution of IOA’s autonomy. It has made it clear that Olympic charter does not impose any limitation to the NOC with respect to tenure or age. Any move to tinker with the IOA’s autonomy by the government will lead to sanctions by the IOC, and it may even debar India from participating in London Olympics. Is Mr Ajay Maken ready for that or does he want the country to be out of the Olympic movement? Are all the sports persons now talking the government language willing to be out of Olympic movement? Do they want India to be another Kuwait?”
Malhotra expressed his feelings: “The minister is trying to pit the eminent sportspersons against the IOA and NSFs and by doing that he is playing a dangerous game. These sportspersons are our precious assets; their contribution has done country proud. No federation can exist without sportspersons and the same is also true the other way round. If there is no federation who will govern the sports, how will the sportspersons emerge, who will look after them? Nowhere in the world, sports or sports persons flourished without federations or NOCs and India is no exception.
“The bill fixes the age (70 years) and limits the tenure of the office-bearers. “It appears that under the guise of this bill, plans are being readied to make the exit route for the Prime Minister, most of his cabinet colleagues and Delhi Chief Minister,” argued Prof Malhotra adding: “If a person 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. If limit of 70 years is the criteria, then half of the Union Cabinet will have to go.”
According to the IOA and NSFs following are some other important facts which the “exuberant” Sports Minister has tended to hide:
(a) All the accounts of the IOA and NSFs are audited by the CAG. It not only audits the government grants but also funds received from the sponsors.
(b) The IOA and all the NSFs affiliated to it are already covered under RTI.
(c) The IOA and NSFs conduct their elections regularly and in a transparent manner.
(d) The IOA and NSFs are committed to “zero tolerance” to dope menace, and are covered and governed by World Anti-doping Agency (WADA) rules.
(e) Arbitration Commission and Ethics Committee have been set up by the IOA.
(f) Sportspersons are given more representations in various committees set up by the IOA and NSFs.
(g) The IOA has offered its willingness to discuss with Sports Ministry any issue relating to transparency.
All India Tennis Association (AITA) Secretary General Anil Khanna wants to know why the government is obsessed with age or tenure limit. He said: “In September this year Francesco Ricci Bitti was elected president of the International Tennis Federation for the fourth successive term at the age of 69, for another period of four years.” Khanna feels that the government should try to help the sportspersons rather than come up with a bill which tinkers with the autonomy of the IOA or NSFs. He alleged: “The government had allocated Rs 678 crore for preparing athletes for Asian and Comonwealth Games. As per CAG report only Rs 203.35 crore were utilised and the rest was allowed to lapse.” He says what has upset him is the fact that the Sports Ministry has given undue importance to international federations. International federations should not be allowed to play politics by assuming that we are weak.
Senior IOC member Randhir Singh categorical says the bill will not pass the IOC muster. “IOC will not accept any regulation which infringes the autonomy of the National Olympic Committee (NOC). I don’t understand government’s such keenness to interfere with the affairs of the NSFs and IOA. This is a clear breach of the principle of autonomy of the federations and violation of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) charter,” he said.
He further said: “I am fiercely committed to the Olympic charter as an IOC member and also being the secretary general of IOA and OCA. I believe the government meddling is not good for the sports. I agree that public has a wrong impression about the IOA and NSFs because what happened before and after the Commonwealth Games. But government agencies are looking into the alleged corruption charges, let them do their work.”
Another veteran sports administrator and former president of Rowing Federation of India (RFI) KP Singhdeo who is also the chairman of IOA’s Olympic preparation monitoring committee expressed his unhappiness on the ongoing controversy. He said: “We need to concentrate on preparing our team squad for the London Olympics. We are left with little time for the Games, in which I believe we have good chance of performing very well and earning more medals than what we got in Beijing.” According to him this is no time for confrontation.
By Harpal Singh Bedi