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‘No Need for IOA to Come Under RTI’

In an exclusive interview with Express, IOA chief Ramachandran discusses about Asian Games controversy, plans to bid for Olympics & much more

Published: 27th July 2014 08:37 AM  |   Last Updated: 27th July 2014 08:37 AM   |  A+A-

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He comes across as an affable man. He sports a smile almost all the time. His penchant for astute sports administration is well-known in the country. Interestingly, his name recently got enmeshed in a couple of controversies.

It is little less than six months since N Ramachandran took charge of the Indian Olympic Association (IOA), but he has already seen his share of unwanted conflicts. Be it the boxing federation affiliation issue or the 2019 Asian Games bid.

Ramachandran feels it took him some time to ‘acclimatise’. In an exclusive interview here at a hotel, the first after getting elected as the president of the IOA, he reveals the qualms and apprehensions he went through during this short but tumultuous term. But now, he seems more confident and his words seem more assured.

“Any job is a challenge,” he says while reflecting on the days since he got elected on February 9. “I had a bereavement in my family (mother’s demise) and health issues with me for a month or so after taking over. It took some time for the IOA and all stakeholders to be satisfied with the way I function. In between, things happened. This is a new marriage and like all new marriages, it took some time to settle down.”

On whether there was any kind of an understanding when he entered into some arrangement between him and the ‘banned’ IOA officials before the elections, whether he was here for just one term or two, the president from Chennai says, “there was nothing.”

“Let’s be practical. According to the IOC (International Olympic Committee) statutes, I cannot continue beyond 70 years of age. I am 66 already and by the next term I will be over 68. I will not contest the elections.”

As to why he accepted this role, the veteran sports administrator says: “If you are an IPS or an IAS official, you would want to be the DGP or the chief secretary, likewise since I am a sports official, and have the skill and ability as an administrator, what’s the harm in harbouring hopes of leading the IOA?”

The Asian Games controversy has been extremely challenging, where he and IOA secretary general Rajeev Mehta had some differences of opinion. “There was no controversy,” he says. “It was over-hyped. Many people don’t realise that I share a very cordial relationship with the secretary general. We have regular meetings with the secretary and the treasurer.”

In fact, the president is now thinking of bidding for the Olympics. “We have already hosted the Asian and the Commonwealth Games. It is natural that now we bid for the big one – the Olympics. When I met the sports minister after he took charge, I had discussed this with him. It is not easy to bid. You have to take all stakeholders on board and only after proper meeting in the Executive Board shall we proceed. We have to discuss it with the ministry and how best this can be done. It is just an idea. Maybe by 2024?”

The boxing federation affiliation, too, has been a thorn. “Enough has been said about its affiliation. All that I want to say is that the controversy, independence and the constitution of the IOA will never be compromised. Everything has to be according to the IOA rule. It has to be passed by the executive board.”

It will be tough for the new boxing federation, which has been asked to form the body by the international boxing federation (AIBA) after elections on or before August 15.

On the sports policy and the sports code, Ramachandran believes there are a few points that are not agreeable to the IOA. Foremost among them is the Right to Information (RTI).

“Many of the federations have written to us on this issue. After we return, we will be writing to the sports ministry on this. There are few objections to the sports policy and code. The RTI today is being utilised by a few interested parties to harass and pester the IOA and the national sports federations (NSFs). The IOA and all NSFs are subjected to Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) audits. The IOA and the NSFs also file IT returns to the income tax department and maintain audit reports. Since government is funding us, we are accountable to the government without sacrificing the autonomy. If the government doesn’t see any fault with us, why should others? No need for us to come under the RTI.”

Popular refrain is that since the federations utilise public funds, the IOA and the NSFs must be accountable to the public. Even Ramachandran believes in this. “Yes, of course! I have nothing against it. What I am trying to say is that it should not be a tool to harass federations. After all, government represents the public.”

The president also believes it is for the IOA to be corporatised. That’s one of his targets during his tenure. “We have to run more professional with paid staff. Rajeev and I have plans of commercialising IOA. We will try to make each of the federations financially independent. Something like the United States Olympic Association.

“It will be a challenge but we have some plans. We would approach some of the corporate houses and try to make them adopt some sports. With the Corporate Social Responsibility, this should not be difficult. If we can get some major disciplines financially independent then it would be great for Indian sport.”



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