It is not just our politicians who are shameless, but so also some of our sports administrators, especially those heading the Indian Olympic Association which has a finger on the self-destruct button after playing havoc with other sports, notably hockey.
The likes of Kalmadi destroyed the very fabric of Indian hockey by backing a rival federation headed by Batra who in turn used every trick in the trade to not only encourage formation of parallel associations in the States but also managed to get the blessings of the International Hockey Federation.
Kalmadi and his henchmen, especially Bhanot, have proved to be a curse for Indian sports. Despite being charged with corruption with regard to the 2010 Commonwealth Games, these officials either directly or through remote control continue to run the show at the IOA. Indeed, it was hardly a surprise that the International Olympic Committee has kept IOA in suspended animation until order is restored.
It also augurs well that the Union Sports Ministry has not only backed IOC’s ruling but also taken a tough stand on the erring IOA and its officials. The sportspersons might crib that they will no more be allowed to compete internationally under the country’s flag or representing India but such sacrifices are necessary for long-term benefits.
It is about time that officials who have been holding positions for two decades and more should be kicked out of the IOA and various federations, if only for non-performance. If these so-called honorary officials want us to believe that there is no money to be made, then why do they hang on to their chairs?
As the parent body, IOC in the past had set an example by cleansing its own stables by removing officials who were charged with selling their votes and accepting gifts besides other irregularities. And now, the IOC is rightly insisting that IOA follows suit and drop officials tainted by corruption charges.
IOA president Chautala’s retort that the law of the land (innocent until proven guilty) should prevail is an argument totally out of context. The blundering president went a step further by making personal remarks against Olympic medalist Bindra that only reflected the quality of the man who is heading the IOA.
The fact is that those in the top echelons of the IOA have been there for some decades now without delivering a single result worth mentioning. If India has won medals on the international stage, then the credit should go to the sportspersons and not a bit of it to the officials who have merely hitched a ride by hanging on to the coat-tails of the performers.
The current scenario has provided an excellent opportunity to rid Indian sports of these self-serving officials who are more adept at playing politics than the sport they are supposed to govern.
It is a happy sign that former top athletes like Usha and Ashwini Nachappa, besides Bindra himself, have been at the forefront of protests and it is to be hoped that their efforts bear fruit at the earliest.
Hopefully, the IOC, under its newly-elected president Thomas Bach, who is said to harbour some affinity towards India, will stick to its stand and enforce discipline in the IOA. It is about time that even the Indian government took a more proactive role to ensure that the IOA’s Augean stables are cleansed once and for all.
Millions of words have been written on the 2010 Commowealth Games fiasco to bear repetition here. With 2014 being a busy year, the IOA issue must be urgently resolved for the good of Indian sport. Next year will see the Commonwealth Games, the Asian Games and of course the hockey World Cup, all having massive Indian interest.
It would be a tragedy and injustice to our sportspersons if India remains outside the Olympic movement and thus is denied the right to field representative teams or individual athletes at these major international events.
About a month back, Indians took part in the Asian Youth Games in China under the banner “Independent Olympic Athletes” which was an utter disgrace, for officially, India was not mentioned in the official results or for that matter on the website. But I wonder whether our IOA officials really gave two hoots about it.
Yet, the clock is ticking with October 31 being the deadline that IOC has set for IOA to dismiss charge-sheeted officials and conduct fresh elections by December 15 if they hope to return to the Olympic fold. To say that Indian sport is at the cross-roads would be to stress the obvious but the power-hungry IOA officials seem not to care as we head to another major imbroglio.