All other sports might seem irrelevant right now, in the wake of the cricket World Cup triumph, but the Indian sports establishment is standing on the verge of an impasse. What happens next could be the difference between resuscitating the Indian sporting establishment, or leaving it to further decay and decompose.
On Wednesday the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) executive board met in London and warned the Indian government against dabbling in the affairs of the Indian Olympic Association (IOA). After the meeting, an IOC spokesperson told the DNA newspaper that if the government did not respect IOA’s jurisdiction and autonomy then “this may unfortunately impact the representation and participation of India on the international sports scene and at the Olympic Games”.
Much of this concern is based on the draft of a new legislation for sports administration that has just been tabled by the sports ministry. The legislation seeks to bring about transparency in the functioning of all national sports bodies, implement tenure limits for administrators and establish a more professional dispute resolution mechanism.
Government intervention in sporting administration, however, is seen as grave anathema by IOC. On several occasions, the body has threatened sanctions against governments seeking to control or interfere in national sports bodies. Kuwait and Ghana have both been sanctioned recently.
But in India’s case, IOC is picking the wrong fight.
For decades, several sports in this country have been run as personal fiefdoms. The bodies are answerable neither to the government nor to the sportspersons themselves. The end result is a national sports mafia network that operates with dubious distinction. Sportspeople have achieved modest success not because of these bodies but despite them. The Commonwealth Games gave this mafia a chance to shine on the international stage. And they delivered.
IOC must see that the proposed legislation is vital for Indian sports. It is a once in a generation effort to fumigate the system of parasites. And its chances of success are strong as long as memories of Kalmadi and company are fresh.
And even if IOC continues to play hardball, the Indian government must stand firm. Indian sports is running out of time.
How can the impasse with IOC be resolved? Tell us at firstname.lastname@example.org