The more things change, the more they remain the same. Four years after the Delhi Commonwealth Games was rocked by corruption charges against top sports officials that led to a purge in the Indian Olympic Association (IOA), the Glasgow edition saw shocking misuse of power by the man at the helm of affairs.
While the athletes toiled to keep the Tricolour flying and helped India finish fifth in the medals tally, IOA secretary-general, Rajeev Mehta who hails from Haldwani, Uttarakhand, was busy misusing his position and providing a pleasure cruise for his personal guests, HT has learnt.
Sports secretary, Ajit Mohan Sharan said: “The government is concerned about this issue and we are looking into it.”
HI’s helping hand
Sample this: Kiran Elizabeth Jeremiah, principal of a well known Nainital school, All Saints’ College, was part of the IOA delegation for the Games. Incidentally, Mehta’s daughter Gargi studies in that school. Mehta, who is also the Hockey India vice-president, forwarded the principal’s name through HI to be included in the 14-member IOA delegates’ list. All expenses, including travel, of the IOA team were borne by the apex sports body.
Three rooms were booked at Glasgow’s Hotel Malmaison for bonafide IOA delegates, who were to stagger their travel in three groups to be able to use the rooms. Jeremiah occupied a room from July 25 to August 3, almost for the entire duration of the Games.
When HT contacted the school to enquire about the principal, a receptionist said, “Principal ma’am has gone for the Glasgow Games and has not returned. She is likely to be back in a couple of days.”
No bones about it
Orthopaedic surgeon Shailendra Kumar Mishra, who owns the imposing Bombay Hospital and Research Centre in Haldwani, was included in the Indian contingent as a doctor. Dr Mishra was never associated with any national camp in the build-up to the Games, but is Mehta’s friend.
While physiotherapists were attached to specific teams and two more went from the Sports Authority of India (SAI), two others from Uttarakhand, Vivekanand and Amit Soni, were shoved into the squad.
There were hardly any players from Uttarakhand in the India squad. But that didn’t stop the IOA from issuing letters for the state secretary-sports, Dr Ajay Kumar Prabyot, wife Jaspal Kaur Prabyot and their two children to get visas easily.
They were recommended to the IOA by the Volleyball Federation of India, which said all their expenses would be borne by the federation and that they will stay at the Malmaison Hotel in rooms reserved for IOA delegates.
The VFI also issued recommendation letters to the IOA to facilitate the travel of Uttarakhand sports minister, Dinesh Aggarwal, and his son Maneet, stating that the federation will bear their expenses. The IOA arranged their accreditations. Ironically, volleyball is not even a discipline at the Commonwealth Games.
Being secretary general of a national Olympic Association Mehta was entitled for an additional accreditation for an accompanying guest.
That accreditation could have been passed on to triple jumper Arpinder Singh’s coach SS Pannu, who couldn’t accompany his trainee as the quota of coaches in athletics was full. Mehta however took wife Deepa and later arranged accreditation for his children.
Cars at disposal
The brazen behaviour did not stop there. The organisers had provided 11 seven-seater cars to ferry Indian athletes and contingent officials.
The athletes, not aware of the facility, took the more tedious shuttle buses to the venues while most of the cars were at the disposal of the IOA officials, their family, guests and federation officials.
In fact, discus thrower Seema Antil Punia, who won silver, could not take warm up throws before the final as her shuttle bus from the Village took nearly an hour to reach the stadium, just in time for her competition.