Politician Suresh Kalmadi, who has done time in prison on charges of corruption, has been denied a fourth stint as president of the Asian Athletics Association (AAA). He lost an election held today in his home-town Pune. (Who said what)
Athletics associations from 45 countries voted; Mr Kalmadi lost narrowly to Brigadier Dalham al-Hamad, the senior vice-president of the association and who also heads oil-rich Qatar's athletics association. Mr Kalmadi lost 18-20 after seven votes were declared invalid.
This was the only sports body post that Mr Kalmadi had continued to hold. He was forced to quit as president of the Indian Olympic Association after being charged with corruption during the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi. He spent 10 months in jail.
The new president of the AAA, Al-Hamad, told reporters just after his appointment that his priority now will be to develop sports in Asia as a whole. He also said that the election process was a fair one.
"The members have chosen nominees that they think will serve them in this movement. We will work day and night to work for the Asian federation."
On 7 votes being invalid, the new chief retorted by saying that all elections have some flaws.
"Overall we have to respect the constitution and apply democracy in the voting. There is no way to satisfy everybody.
"We cannot forget Mr. Kalmadi's contribution. He did his best, now we have to take the baton from him and continue the movement," said Hammad.
He also wanted the parent body, International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), to work on its rules so that presidents also have specific terms in the AAA. It is noteworthy that Kalmadi, who had been a president for 12 years now, was looking for another term.
"It is life and you always have to review your rules. IAAF is working on how to make the movement better. There is now way that we will sit still without looking into the future. A lot of funding in athletics is coming from Asia and we would want to develop Asian athletics even more. I will not disappoint in my term as the AAA president," said Hamad.
Talking to NDTV, former Indian athlete Ashwini Nachappa, who is also the president of Clean Sports India, an initiative launched by former Indian greats like hockey legend Pargat Singh, said that there are lessons in this decision for the entire sports structure in India.
"Unless something drastic like this happens, he (Kalmadi) would not leave. There are no morals or ethics to follow. Even federations don't follow ethics. Argument that they elected Kalmadi in 2008 does not stand. Kalmadi and Lalit Bhanot still control athletics federations whether from inside jail walls or outside.
It is also a lesson for the ministries who have been working in closed walls with the tainted officials. Cleaning up should begin in order to clean up the image of sport. We have begun at the top and it should now go to the bottom. Kalmadi has been there for far too long and people have now realised what he is up to. Whether he was willing to leave or not is a different question but time to get the matter sorted is right. It is a matter of time when things come around and he was thrown out. Cannot be a bigger shame than this," said Nachappa.
Just before the elections this morning, Mr Kalmadi had told NDTV that it would be a close affair. Despite the taint, the Kalmadi camp was confident he would win. They argued that though he may have been pushed into a corner in India, Mr Kalmadi held a firm grip over sports associations in Asia.
But many sportspersons across the country have said he should not have contested at all till he was proven innocent.
Mr Kalmadi was first elected to head the Asian Athletics Association in 2000 and was re-elected for a third time in 2009.
I am happy with the result, especially since it has happened in our country.
Story first published on: Monday, 01 July 2013 12:17 IST