iconimg Monday, August 31, 2015

Siddharth Saxena , PTI
Busan, October 05, 2002
Ignorance is bliss for Indian officials at the Asian Games here. Controversies of the most ridiculous nature are cropping up. Everybody is sitting up and taking notice, but the Chef de Mission hasn’t a clue as to what’s happening.

The VIP boxes at each Indian match are filled with officials from the contingent. The IOA president, the secretary-general, the Sports Minister — out of bounds in India but seeking an audience here — and their families, are all there. Pleasantries are exchanged, pictures are taken for the private album and smiles flashed. Then it's back to the waiting VIP car to another venue for more of the same.

But ask about the case of the mystery wrestler — who apparently has made it on his own here — and not only does Jagdish Tytler not know his name or weight category, he confuses the issue with another controversy in body-building.

Ask the IOA secretary general or head of the Medical Commission about the dual identity of wrestler Satish Kumar — they learn of it for the first time through you.

This is the officialdom of our National Olympic Committee. Chef de Mission Tytler, president Suresh Kalmadi, secretary-general Randhir Singh and a host of other VIPs met the Indian media and spouted the usual fare about being disappointed with the performance so far. They hoped, like every time, it would improve in future. This, incidentally, was all done in between fixing a date about the dinner they'd like to host for the media.

But when the case of wrestler Anil Kumar Mann cropped up, cell phones called and it was time to disperse, if not leave.

When Kalmadi deflected the question to Tytler, he began talking about the body-building controversy. Dinesh Aswal was not allowed his weigh in too, since he had not been cleared by his federation — he made it on his own.

Tytler's kind attention had to be diverted back to the issue at hand — wrestling. IOA old timers swooped to his rescue. The NOC was categorical in its dismissal of Mann's claim of participation. The official stance is that he was not cleared by the IOA to participate at Busan, but could have made it here on his own.

"He just cannot be at the Games Village as he won't be allowed in," said Kalmadi. "What he does here is his problem, we have nothing to do with him."

There is confusion about Mann here. Predictably, neither the wrestler nor anyone from the responsible federation were available. The Games’ official website has listed Mann under the entry No. 6019688, Bib No: 0210, complete with mug-shot.

Then, as more questions cropped up, Tytler put up his hands. "I have no idea," he said as he found himself deserted by the IOA brass. "Call me in 30 minutes, I'll let you know as soon as I get to the Village." It's been a couple of hours since, and Tytler still hasn't gotten home.