When in trouble, play the International Olympic Council (IOC) card. In a hurriedly organised press conference on Tuesday, the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) secretary-general, Randhir Singh, armed with letters from the IOC and the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA), said the IOA would face sanctions if any external agency infringed upon its autonomy.
The IOA and the Sports Ministry are locked in a war of words over a recent order passed by the latter restricting the tenure of the national federations’ presidents to 12 years and capping the maximum age to hold office to 70 years.
Quoting from the letter sent by the IOC’s National Olympic Committee Relations Director, Pere Miro, Singh said the IOA would be “suspended or de-recognised if there is any external interference”.
Singh, who spoke as an IOC member, said if the IOC felt the IOA’s autonomy was being compromised, it would immediately call for sanctions. “If they think the autonomy has been infringed upon, sanctions will be imposed at once and that will jeopardise the Commonwealth Games,” he said. “But I am hopeful of a solution very soon.”
Quoting from the letter, he said, “The Olympic movement always recognises the fundamental role of government authorities in the development and promotion of sport... and encourages harmonious relationship with the competent government bodies.”
Singh said the government should not meddle with the body’s election process either. “The NOCs internal operations, decision-making mechanisms, holding of meetings, arrangement of elections are the responsibility of the NOC,” he said.
“The issue of the number of terms of the office-bearers and their age limit shall not be decided or imposed by law or an external body’s decision, but shall be decided by the NOCs and by their executive committees or general assemblies.”
When asked why the IOA office-bearers were adamant on the issue, Singh said, “It is entirely on what the IOA and national federations to decide.”
The OCA too has lent its support to the IOA with its chief, Sheikh Ahmed Al-Fahad Al-Sabah. The IOA has forwarded the letters to the Ministry.
The next election of the IOA is in 2012. Till then, according to the ministry order, Suresh Kalmadi, who had been the chief since 1996, can continue.
The Ministry, however, felt they were not disturbing anyone’s tenure for now. Sports Minister M.S. Gill was quoted by PTI as saying, “We have made it clear in the order that no one is to be disturbed right now. The office-bearers can carry on. The regulation will apply from future elections. I guess the current protest is because my friends (in the federations) want unlimited tenures which doesn’t even exist in the (charters of the) IOC.”