Silly move has potential to divide IOA; ministry interference perilous

The Indian Olympic Association and the Sports Ministry are at loggerheads over issues that seem needless.
Sports Minister Vijay Goel (File|PTI)
Sports Minister Vijay Goel (File|PTI)

The way things stand, the Indian Olympic Movement seems to be in a mess right now. The Indian Olympic Association and the Sports Ministry are at loggerheads over issues that seem needless. What’s worse is that both seem to be in a hurry to outsmart the other.

The ministry has decided to suspend IOA’s ‘deemed recognition’ on Friday after the former sought more time to respond to the show-cause notice served on Wednesday. But in reality, IOA, if they are financially stable, doesn’t need the government’s recognition. Technically, the ministry cannot suspend IOA anyway. If they persist, which they are doing now, it amounts to government interference and the International Olympic Council will not tolerate it.

What’s baffling in the whole drama is how a run-of-the-mill AGM ended with the needless controversy that is threatening to split the IOA. Maybe it was a decision taken in haste and that they did not expect it to turn into a controversy.

The IOA, during its meeting, elevated Commonwealth Games-scam tainted Suresh Kalmadi and former IOA president Abhay Singh Chautala as life presidents. The ministry took objection to it but sports minister Vijay Goel’s reaction seemed laced in politics. IOA is doing what it knows best — hiding behind innuendos and oblique rhetoric. The ministry has been issuing statements every day but IOA has sought solace in silence.

Another interesting part was that it was never discussed with anyone before the meeting. Not even with some of IOA’s senior members. Even if it was discussed with a few, they are now denying it. This reveals the mistrust growing within the IOA.

Some are saying even president N Ramachandran was not aware of this! The two-three men who were heard proposing the names were the president and secretary general Rajeev Mehta loyalists. This set of IOA members was elected on two principles — ethics and good governance, which are the two points International Olympic Committee had raised while suspending the Chautala-led IOA.

The IOA, after a long time, had started functioning smoothly. It had managed to bind the fissures between the sports ministry and the federations.

A confrontation with the ministry will adversely affect the federations’ relationships as well. On Friday, International Hockey Federation (FIH) president Narender Batra resigned in protest. His argument is that there was no necessity to make them life presidents. “They could have waited. What was the hurry and why should they not keep the house informed about such a decision?” he asked. He is not alone. More members are questioning the move. Ramachandran’s tenure as president too might not be easy now. This perhaps is the silliest move by IOA. Something needless and avoidable.

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