Friday’s massive earthquake in north Japan coincided with the announcement of de-recognition of Archery Association of India (AAI) and Indian Amateur Boxing Federation (IABF). The tremors in the corridors of Delhi’s Shastri Bhawan, where sports minister Jitendera Singh made the announcement, rattled the Chautala-Bhanot camp which had earlier defied the dictate of the International Olympic Committee (IOC). This came following suspension of the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) by the International Olympic Committee and provisional suspension of IABF by its Lusanne-based parent body, the International Boxing Association (AIBA).
Sensing the matter as grave, Abhay Singh Chautala lost no time in bowing to the IOC dictate. He agreed to step down from his post and said the IABF was ready to hold a re-election to regain AIBA’s affiliation.
Chautala said IABF rew-election was an option if that is what the AIBA insisted on. “We are ready for a re-election and I am ready quit the post of chairman. AIBA can send its observer and fix the date also. I have told the IABF president and secretary general to speak to the AIBA officials and sort out the matter,” Chautala told reporters.
The Government action, however, came a little too late. Earlier sports minister Ajay Maken may have been well-meaning in formulating the guidelines or the Sports Development Bill. But his execution was not in line with the international sports norms. He would have been well within
his rights to put aging and corrupt sports administrators on leash by actions other than Sports Development Bill. The IOC found the bill direct Government interference in the working of the IOA, the National Olympic Committee.
In its letter to Vijay Kumar Malhotra, acting President of the IOA, the IOC says “the executive board also noted that the IOC, in close coordination with the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA), has made every possible effort for more than two years to assist in an amicable resolution to these issues. However, the IOC’s position has not been taken into consideration seriously and responsibly by the IOA and the relevant Government authorities in India.”
The current sports minister Jitendra Singh took full advantage of the situation. Just when the AIBA suspended the IABF, he also de-recognize the IABF for 15 days and also archery association.
The AIBA statement said “further to IOC’s suspension imposed on the Indian Olympic Association (IOA), the International Boxing Association (AIBA) Executive Committee Bureau has decided today 6 December 2012 to provisionally suspend the Indian Amateur Boxing Federation (IABF). This provisional suspension is also due to the fact that AIBA had learned about possible manipulation of the recent IABF’s election. AIBA will now investigate this election and especially a potential political link between IOA President, as former Chairman of the IABF, and the IABF election.”
Most people feel that despite international shame that the entire episode has brought to India, it will be good for the country’s sport. “At least these officials have learnt a lesson now and I am sure the situation can only get better from here,” a top former national player said.
Luckily for India, the IOC suspension does not mean an automatic suspension from all international federations. Unlike AIBA, the world governing body of athletics IAAF says the IOC suspension will not implicate the athletics officials in India. The IAAF deputy general secretary and communications director Nick Davies says “the main point is that IOC membership relates to the National Olympic Committee and not the National Member Federation so not relevant really to IAAF.”
Commenting upon the status of Suresh Kalmadi, the president of the Asian Athletics Association and a member of the IAAF Council, Davies says, ``Mr Kalmadi was appointed a member of the IAAF Council by virtue of being “Asia Area Representative” as president of the Asian AA. As there is still no criminal conviction of Kalmadi, the IAAF remains consistent with argument that on the basis of innocent until proven guilty, and unless he himself resigns his post, he remains a member of the IAAF Council.’’
Considering international boxing federation was the first one to react following the IOC suspension, directly hitting Abhay Chautala, the international swimming federation may also toe the boxing federation line. The present situation is largely due to arrogance on the part of officials fighting for the IOA turf. The same arrogance landed two top officials in Delhi’s Tihar jail following the Delhi Commonwealth Games. The IOC suspension and the resultant ban on funding from the IOC is likely to somewhat set things right.
According to Pere Mere, director NOC relations in IOC, “with this suspension, the Indian Olympic Association is no longer entitled to exercise any activity or right conferred upon it by the Olympic Charter or the IOC. In particular, the IOC will withhold any financial assistance to the Indian Olympic Association, including Olympic Solidarity funding.”
Here it may be recalled that Soumyajit Ghosh managed to win a medal in the world junior table tennis champion two years back mainly due to a hefty financial assistance by IOC Solidarity fund.
Earlier long jumper Anju Bobby George had also got a large amount of financial grant. The officials know full well that without such grants from the IOC and international federations they cannot run affairs in the IOA.
What is the way out from here? According to Sieh Kok Chi, a veteran secretary general of the Malaysian Olympic Committee, “this is not the first time or will it be the last time an NOC is suspended by the IOC for various reasons. For the sake of sport and the athletes, all parties should get together and sort out whatever differences. The IOA should study the reasons and the issues carefully, and try to resolve them with the parties concerned in order to come to an amicable solution for the good of sport and the athletes.’’
Earlier Kuwait faced a similar problem. It was suspended by the IOC for what it called “government interference” in the working of the Kuwait Olympic Committee. In fact the Kuwaiti athletes took part in the Guangzhou Asian Games under the IOC banner. The situation was restored when the `controversial’ Government ruling was deleted to pave the way for Kuwait to come back in IOC fold.
Interestingly, Sheikh Ahmad of Kuwait is the president of Olympic Council of Asia and Randhir Singh from India is the Secretary General of OCA.
Thankfully in the case of India no major IOC-sanctioned event is coming close. Even though the IOC has not made it clear that Indian sportspersons will be allowed to compete under the IOC banner, generally the world body does not make athletes suffer.
On the eve of the London Olympic Saudi Arabia was facing suspension from the Games for not allowing Saudi women athletes to take part. Finally just before the Games, Saudi Arabian authorities had to resolve the issue by allowing women despite dictate by the Mullahs.
It is likely that soon all the stakeholders — warring factions of IOA, Sports Ministry and OCA General Secretary and IOC member in India Randhir Singh — will sit together with the IOC and find a way out.