I have always wondered in my 17 years of sporting career as to what role the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) has played in the development of sport in the country, apart from forwarding the entries of athletes for major competitions, such as the Olympic Games and Asian Games. I congratulate them for that.
Having had the chance to see the working of various Olympic Committees and having lived in the US (Colorado Springs) for four years, I have seen how closely the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) works with respective federations for the development of sports, raising money, getting sponsors on board, etc. The USOC funds nearly 90% of the country's Olympic programme. That involvement has been absolutely missing as far as the IOA is concerned.
Fall in line
When I read everywhere that the IOA is opposing the government's sports code (for good governance), I fail to understand why they are doing it? When the IOA and national sports federations' (NSFs) existence depends on the sports ministry's funding, then don't they want to be accountable?
I firmly believe that that IOA should adopt the changes, as recommended in the sports code, in their constitution. If the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has rules for good governance, then why aren't those rules good enough for the IOA?
Nobody to blame
The current mess, whereby there are strong indications that the IOA is staring at a suspension, is a mess completely of their making. The IOC tried its best to convince the IOA to change its constitution, but the world body failed. Now, I believe, the IOA has sent two people with dubious records to convince the IOC not to suspend the IOA.
Coming to the election of Mr Lalit Bhanot as secretary-general of the IOA, I would say it's a ridiculous thing to happen. How can he return? It's about politics and stooping to a new low. It's a disaster. It only shows that nobody cares. The IOC ethics commission had categorically said that Suresh Kalmadi (former IOA chief and CWG chairman), Bhanot and VK Verma (former Badminton Association of India chief) should be suspended from the IOA. But, obviously, Mr Bhanot has been allowed to contest the elections.
The role of sports administrators is extremely important in the life of an athlete and it is agonising to see such people coming back. It makes my blood boil. How do you expect me to go and respect them? The athlete is absolutely the last person on their mind. They don't exist for them. As the two IOA officials try to convince the IOC not to suspend the national Olympic committee, I would ask the world body to see things from the perspective of the athletes. They are the main stakeholders. No one else except the athletes will be affected, while the administrators will wash their hands off the issue. The IOC must try and get an understanding of Indian sport from their point of view and not just from people with vested interests.
Blessing in disguise
At the same time, if our Olympic association is banned, it could be a blessing in disguise. All athletes for once should stand united and not allow the administrators to divide them so as to continue their dictatorial rule. With no multi-sport event in 2013, Indian athletes could afford a moratorium for about three to six months provided we all stand united and are empowered to go change the present system. Athletes have been suppressed for far too long and it's time we attain freedom.
I am not concerned about myself or the athletes of my generation, but I am more concerned about the youngsters, those up-and-coming athletes, who don't have a voice. It is highly frustrating and de-motivating for them.
A momentum was created in the last two years and India cannot afford to break that. My proposal to all squabbling IOA administrators is to go on a TV reality show and leave the present job to experts. It would be a good compromise as they could even earn legitimate money. The best would be to go for a serial like Big Boss. The show would suit some of them as it has an in-house jail as well.