A top Indian Olympic official says the suspended Indian Olympic Association (IOA) is running out of time to clean up its administration before next year’s major sporting events.
The IOA was suspended in December last year for conducting elections declared illegal by the International Olympic Committee (IOC). It’s been given an October 31 deadline by the IOC to amend its constitution and a December 15 deadline to hold fresh elections if it wants to return to the Olympic fold.
“The IOC executive board is clear that elections will be authorized only after the amendments asked for are complied with,” IOC member Randhir Singh told The Associated Press on Saturday. “If these deadlines are not met, it will mean a crucial loss of time close to big events like the Asian Games, Commonwealth Games and the Winter Olympics next year.”
The IOC, which is helping IOA firm up a new constitution, wants officials charged in any case by an investigating body to be barred from running in future IOA elections, whereas the IOA wants to ban only those jailed for two years or more and decide on the merits of those receiving lesser sentences.
“I hope better sense prevails and people look beyond their personal desires. I hope they select a good leadership and convey the right message across the world because everyone is watching us,” Mr Randhir said.
“We can only hope they have a strong secretary-general and president who can take India forward at a time when our sportsmen are doing well,” he added.
The Indian Sports Ministry and several prominent athletes, including India’s only individual Olympic gold medal winner, Abhinav Bindra, have lauded the IOC in its efforts to clean up India’s sports administration bodies, which were widely blamed for corruption, mismanagement and building delays in the lead-up to the 2010 Commonwealth Games in New Delhi.
Former IOA president Suresh Kalmadi and his close aide, Lalit Bhanot, were jailed in graft cases related to the Commonwealth Games before being released on bail. Though Kalmadi decided not to seek re-election, Bhanot was elected secretary-general in the controversial IOA elections last December.
There are also several other Indian sports administrators who have been charged in cases not related to sports administration.