Home >opinion >online-views >Rejoice at IOA’s suspension

I think we should all cheer lustily that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has suspended the Indian Olympic Association (IOA).

Just looking at the worthies who have been running IOA and some of its affiliated associations is enough to make you mad. Who are these people? Apparently, Abhay Singh Chautala, who was about to become president of the—well, we can’t call it IOA anymore, can we—the Indian Whatever Association (IWA), has been head honcho of Indian table tennis for some years. Well, the way he is built and speaks, the only use I can imagine he could ever have for a ping-pong table is to pick it up and break it over the head of some political rival.

Vijay Kumar Malhotra has been the kingpin of Indian archery for about half a century or something. That’s the sort of devotion to the bow and arrow that would have had Dronacharya quivering with pride. Jagdish Tytler has been running Indian judo for quite some time now. Yes, OK, that seems somewhat appropriate, though Tytler’s record suggests he prefers brute mob force over techniques like the kneeling shoulder drop or the springing wraparound or the two-hand reap (no, no, that sounds mysteriously relevant).

Suresh Kalmadi, who was monarch of the IWA for many moons, was in jail for looting public money. While in prison, he claimed
dementia (can someone with dementia know that he has dementia?). One of his lackeys, who also spent time behind bars, is back as secretary general of the IWA, despite grave objections from the IOC. During his tenure, Kalmadi made sure that the constitution of the IWA was never amended to be in line with the IOC charter. His successors have maintained the status quo. The key reason for this is that if the IWA falls in line, an age limit and a tenure limit kick in for the IWA fat cats. Now, where would that leave people like Malhotra and other similar parasites?

To force IWA’s hand, the government came up with a “sports code" which is, for all practical purposes, the IOC charter. The IWA protested that the government had no locus standi and refused to implement the code, while telling the IOC that it was being subjected to government interference. The Delhi high court ordered the IWA to hold elections under the government’s sports code. The IOC forbade the IWA to hold elections unless it followed the IOC charter and rejected the jailbird as secretary-general. The IWA now played the government against the IOC, saying that it had no choice but to hold elections since it had been ordered by the court do so. Point to be noted here is that the government had no objections to the IWA adopting the IOC charter instead of the sports code since they are basically the same. But the IWA played too smart since the men there thought they could fool all the people all the time.

The IOC finally ran out of patience and did what it was duty-bound to do—it suspended the Indian entity. The IWA immediately made it look like the international body was punishing it for saying that it had to go by the government’s sports code. Which was not entirely incorrect, but grossly misrepresentative of what had actually happened.

In the last few months, citizens of India have been trying to figure out how much shame people in our public life can take without blinking, forget blanching. The obvious answer is: hell of a lot. In fact, the way our politicians have behaved indicates that we are nowhere near breaching their fortresses of astonishing shamelessness. The Olympic fiasco is just another test for them, because, of course, the IWA elite comprises entirely of politicians and their cronies.

In this case, however, there is hope, because there is an international body—the IOC—involved, so the IWA mafia can’t hide behind walls of silence. They can’t pretend to be deaf and they can’t pretend to be mute, as their compatriots in Indian polity can. Whenever they open their mouths to speak, they can only make their own positions worse. There don’t seem to be too many ways of escape left for them.

And we should rejoice over every such small victory. The IWA has for years been an affront, by all yardsticks, to a nation of sports lovers. At least a few obnoxious men in power have now been shamed and defeated.

Sandipan Deb writes a fortnightly column, The Sceptic, in Mint.

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