For a bystander, the suspension on the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) might assume frightening proportions, but let me assure you, a world of change can come about, and all it will take is a mere five minutes.
If there are people in the IOA who are well meaning, it’s a matter of sitting together and adopting the requisite changes in the constitution, which conform to the Olympic Charter and the national Sports Code.
The NOC (National Olympic Committee) had a chance to do so two years ago (at its AGM in Ranchi) but let’s not dwell on the past.
It’s a matter of will and now’s the time to show some. As the parent body for Olympic sport in the country, the IOA should be a model organisation, setting the highest standards of governance for other bodies to derive strength from.
No pro-active role
Barring the promotion of the National Games, which often don’t happen, the IOA hasn’t adopted a pro-active role in promoting the Olympic movement in the country.
To do so, it needs to work closely with the state Olympic associations towards a grassroots programme for identifying and nurturing talent in the country.
The IOA has been saying that it is not its job, but it is, as it is of the government and that of various federations.
After criss-crossing the globe, I’ve come to realise that NOCs abroad facilitate this process and work in close coordination with their governments and various sports federations.
The IOA should be the one-stop point for athletes on how they can progress in their respective fields. A sportsman’s career span is short and it is the NOC’s job to help him develop skills outside his sphere of influence, which sustain him after he steps out.
Here, I would like to mention the exceptional work in Germany and The Netherlands.
Need sports culture
The country needs to develop a sports culture and for this the IOA has to be active through clubs and programmes at the school level. The Olympic movement needs a continuous push for creating interest in the young generation, but sadly this is missing in India.
Needless to say, all this needs money and the IOA has done little to raise funds, but believe me, by marketing the programme, things can turn around.
Sponsors will come in only when there is transparency and accountability and trust established that each penny will be well used.
For this, experts need to be hired, who need to work on specific goals like marketing, sports development, team coordination and preparation, grassroots development of the Olympic movement and athlete counselling.
The professionals need to be accountable with a review of results on a quadrennial basis.
Voice of athletes
The NOC must have an athletes’ commission — elected from various disciplines — so as to ensure that the athletes too find a voice in the decision-making process.
Sending out teams for multi-discipline events is a major task. NOCs abroad work extremely hard towards this, in fact, years in advance, so that all aspects are got right to the smallest detail and an athlete knows what to expect once he gets to the venue.
The IOA has been doing it, but in a pretty chaotic manner. We need the right people for the job, for whom athletes are the priority and not the planeload of VIPs!
The writer is India’s only individual Olympic gold medallist