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Bitter rivalry leads IOA to bad health

The ghost of the tainted former chief seems to be haunting the Indian Olympic Association (IOA). At one time the undisputed lord of IOA, and its president for 16 years, the veteran Congressman Suresh Kalmadi was asked to resign from the post after being accused of corruption during the Commonwealth Games in 2010. Since then the tainted body is being managed on an ad-hoc basis. And now just before the polls are to be conducted to elect a chief on 5 December, who could clean up things, the International Olympics Committee (IOC) has threatened that the Indian body will be suspended if the elections are not conducted as per the international Olympic charter. As for now, the elections are to be held under the Delhi sports code, a code that the IOC does not recognise as the statutory procedure for elections of national bodies reporting to it. At the same time, the two warring factions who are gunning for the post of the president, one belonging to Randhir Singh, a long time IOA member and the other to Abhay Singh Chautala, Kalmadi’s protege are getting bitter by the day, making the body a laughing stock. Singh has just given up, making it a single run for Chautala, though it is obvious that there have been pressures on him to bow down. Their bitter rivalry is clearly an indication that IOA, one of India’s most high-profile sporting bodies, is not in good health. This bickering among sports officials, which comes at a great offense and damage to the sports fraternity, the culture of sportsmanship and India’s claims to become a sporting nation, is something that should be seriously dealt with. Why cannot our sports bodies evolve a culture and ethic of service, professionalism and mutual trust? Why do the sports bodies have to have an entrenched culture of bad blood among its members, mutual distrust, nepotism and partisan interest? More importantly, why would a bunch of grown up men behave like children when it comes to decision-making.

One must really take home a few lessons from this and start to think about ways to reform our sports bodies. But before that, the government must ensure that IOA listens to IOC, gives up the sports code and pertains to its laws. That way the IOA will still survive and at least try to clean its Aegean stables. Honestly, there will not be much cause for sadness if IOA closes down, as in any case it is travesty, but it would be a tragedy if for a few foolish men, Indian athletes are denied a place inside the hallowed Olympian ring, which they jolly well could be.
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