Viewpoint: Should IOC ban India Olympic Association?

Saina Nehwal
Image caption Saina Nehwal won a silver medal at London 2012

Do not fear. Even though the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has suspended the Indian Olympic Association (IOA), Indian athletes will most certainly be there in Rio de Janeiro in 2016.

Be sure the suspension will be revoked in time for the Indian athletes to march behind their tricolour flag at Rio.

Let's put it this way - the IOC cannot afford to suspend the world's biggest democracy from the Olympic movement.

India may have its ills, but it is not an authoritarian state. All the world's sporting bodies want India to do well, because that will increase the number of eyeballs watching the events.

We don't whip our losing teams; we allow women to participate - they even win medals for us! - and our human rights track record is way better than many whose Olympic athletes win medals by the bagful.

We only want to clean up our sports and that cannot be a bad thing.


The truth is that we in India are freer than most other countries. Still, we must continue to keep the government on its toes. Our judiciary does it from time to time and so does the media.

On the face of it, the IOC's attempt to keep sports at arm's length from politics is the right decision because, in IOC parlance, that's what government interference amount to.

Having said that, the IOC cannot be blind to the fact that Indian sports officialdom is being "run" by politicians anyway and for longer than we care to remember. The IOC needs to see the peculiar situation Indian sport is in. Officials run it like a fiefdom.

The best case in point is the "acting" president of the IOA, Vijay Kumar Malhotra. He has been heading the Archery Association of India for over 40 years, and he got himself elected again recently. Countless other federation officials have been at the helm (or in the federation) for periods ranging from 12 to 15 years.

Long tenures don't mean much in the IOC. Their first president, Pierre De Coubertin was at the helm from 1896 to 1925.

Juan Antonio Samaranch, the most visible IOC president in modern times reigned from 1980 to 2001. Unfortunately, it was during this period that corruption became the big bugbear.

Catch 22

Since 2001, Jacques Rogge has held the position of president and he has had to deal with the ultimate scourge of sports - doping.

Over the past few decades, the IOC has tried to weed out "unsavoury" elements from within its "club". Reports and allegations abound about members being influenced by gifts in the run-up to the "voting" for the next Olympic host. The IOC is certainly trying to solve the issue, but only the naive would suggest that it has succeeded completely.

In India, it really is a tragedy that in just over 100 days from the conclusion of an Olympic Games, where the Indian athletes put in their best-ever showing of six medals - and held out a promise of further increasing that number in 2016 and 2020 - the Indian sporting fraternity is not discussing ways to move forward but is pondering the future of the IOA.

India's first individual gold medallist shooter, Abhinav Bindra, the most outspoken of all Indian sportspersons, has fired a direct shot at sports officialdom for allowing tainted officials to come back to power. Other athletes have resisted echoing that view in public, simply because officials can "play havoc" with their careers.

Only the uninitiated would suggest that the officialdom - be it at the state, federation or IOA levels - have been of much help to Indian sport.

True, they are influential, but the facilities of late have been created by the corporate sector, which has added sport as part of its corporate social responsibility.

No one can overlook the largesse given out by the government - in the form of exposure trips of various teams for the preparation of events like World Championships, Asian, Commonwealth and Olympic Games.

In turn, the cash-strapped government is justified in demanding accountability because the money its gives out is what it gets from the tax-payers. So its demand to fix tenures for officials is justified.

Catch 22 would be the best way to describe the current situation. We want to be part of the Olympic movement, but we don't want this current set of Indian officials.

More on this story