Another twist was added to the growing hostility between the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) and the Sports Ministry over the Sports Policy draft and the stalemate over the 2010 Commonwealth Games when Randhir Singh, the IOA secretary-general, raised doubts about the organisation of the Games.
Due to growing concerns over whether the dispute could jeopardise the organisation of the Games, Singh said: “God forbid if that happens… I hope not!” In a stormy press conference, where Singh was grilled over the IOA’s opposition to the draft, he said: “It is very unfortunate that the IOA and the sports federations are on one side and the Ministry and the government on the other. We should work as one family. I’m disappointed it’s not happening. Let’s behave like mature people.”
<b1>The IOA’s main grouse is one clause in the Sports Policy draft — the setting up of a ‘Sports Regulatory Authority’ — which basically aims at making the federations and the IOA more accountable over several issues that have caused controversies. These include the utilisation of funds, management, prejudice in the selection of athletes, unethical electoral practices and the lack of transparency in functioning of the federations and the IOA.
Mediapersons questioned the functioning of the IOA and the fact that, despite enjoying full autonomy, it had little to show in its five decades of existence, whereas communist countries like Cuba and China, despite all the restrictions, had gone far ahead.
But Singh stuck to his guns. “The clause compromises our autonomy. That is the reason why we did not attend the meeting to discuss the draft with the Sports Ministry on August 17,” he said, adding that the draft was akin to old wine in a new bottle. “It’s the same old wine in a new bottle, the same old songs in a new CD.”
Pointing to the growing acrimony between IOA president Suresh Kalmadi and Sports Minister Mani Shankar Aiyar, he said, “It’s sad that personal issues are affecting sports.”
Although Singh said that there was nothing in the draft that could bring about a sports culture in the country, he skirted the topic as to how much the IOA had contributed to the inertia. “It (the draft) looks like a great essay; an Enid Blyton story which, at the end of the day, is not going to serve any purpose.”
Asked pointedly why the IOA was against the sports regulatory authority when there have been innumerable allegations of mismanagement, unethical electoral processes, improper selection of teams, unaccountability over it, Singh only said: “We already have the Sports Ministry, the All India Council of Sports, the Sports Authority of India… Why do we need a regulatory authority now? Are we going back to the inspector raj?
“The policy should focus on more pressing issues like earmarking more money for athletes, getting them more international exposure, better coaches etc,” he said. “A shooter like Jaspal Rana comes back after winning three gold from the Asian Games and his achievements go unrecognised. This is where we are losing focus. Has anyone thought where will our athletes train when the stadia in the Capital are shut for renovation till 2010?
“The whole thing is in a mess — the Commonwealth Games, preparations for the Olympics, the infrastructure. No one knows where we are headed.”
It was pointed out to him that the IOA itself had done precious little to promote sports in the country, resulting in infighting in federations, the inability to control the dope menace, financial mess, just a couple of medals to show from the Olympics, besides the abysmal performance in certain disciplines like hockey. “I understand our accountability should be 100 per cent,” Singh replied. “That’s the reason why we should all work together.”
But that, it seems, will remain just a dream.