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HindustanTimes Fri,29 Aug 2014

Columns

Sports federations act like nuclear command centres
RVS Rathore
May 11, 2013
First Published: 23:52 IST(11/5/2013)
Last Updated: 01:53 IST(12/5/2013)

Being out of the Olympic movement has been the biggest setback for Indian sports, but it gives us the opportunity to leap into the future. Every problem has to be seen as an opportunity, and it is a fantastic chance for Indian sport to shrug off its lethargy and become a leading ambassador of India's power and the beginning of a vibrant Olympic movement in the country.

Indian sport deserves its autonomy only if the federations, headed by the Indian Olympic Association (IOA), are able to generate revenue equivalent to that being spent by the government. At the moment, the government is the only major sponsor of Olympic sports in the country, and it is no wonder that it wants a say in the functioning and a transparent system in place.

The IOA should take a leaf out of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), which has been able to generate phenomenal revenue to sustain the Olympic Games apart from supporting deserving athletes around the world.

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Powerful ally
To do that, the IOA and national federations need a healthy association with the media, particularly television. Cricket may be a brilliant example in the Indian context, but look at the way European football and American basketball have started to dominate Indian media, leading to the slow death of Indian sport.

The power of the media has been left untapped, and most of the federations actually drive away the enthusiastic media even from the basic function of dissemination of news. It is the responsibility of the IOA and federations to tap the media for the growth of Indian sport.

The children need to see leading sports persons as icons, and feel the urge to follow in their footsteps. Of course, Indian sport needs competent professionals with a sprinkling of expertise from every field, but more than that it needs active sportspersons in every federation. To strike at the root of the problem, we need to have elections to the federations, conducted with common rules and regulations, conducted by a common body on the lines of Election Commission.

Today, sports bodies function in a secretive fashion, like a nuclear command centre. The only nucleus must be the sportsperson and no one else. We need to have transparency, and accountability is the key.

The performance of the athlete is the responsibility of the sports body and there should be healthy competition among the officials to do better work, rather than have a race as to who would cling on to a position longer.

The time is now for a change of approach, as to how we govern sports, so that sports can make our lives better.

The writer is an Olympic medalist.


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