New Delhi: After serving a 14-month suspension, India are seemingly on the right track that will ensure their return to the Olympic fold. World Squash Federation president N. Ramachandran - brother of Board of Control for Cricket in India boss N. Srinivasan - was elected unopposed as president of Indian Olympic Association in Delhi on Sunday. Electing 'clean' office bearers is the biggest condition set by the International Olympic Committee in accepting IOA back in the Olympic family. (Brother in arms: N. Srinivasan and N. Ramachandran)
The elections, which were conducted by a three-member election commission of the IOA, was preceded by a Special Governing Body Meeting that saw an amendment in the IOA constitution. As per IOC's diktats, the IOA adopted a rule that will ensure "charge-framed" persons will have no role to play in the national Olympic committee. Effectively, men like Lalit Bhanot, who has served a jail term due to charges of fraud during the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi, can never contest an IOA election. (India likely to return to Olympic fold by February 23)
While Ramachandran was elected as president, Kho Kho Federation of India president Rajeev Mehta and All India Tennis Association chief Anil Khanna were elected unopposed as secretary general and treasurer, respectively. CEO of Swimming Federation of India, Virender Nanavati has been voted as senior vice-president. Interestingly, neither squash nor kho-kho are Olympic events. IOC director of NOC Relations Pere Miro, IOC Ethics Commission member Francisco J Elizalde from the Philippines and Olympic Council of Asia Director General Husain Al Musallam were the observers from the world body.
"My immediate goal is to get India back to the Olympic fold. I will be the happiest person if we see the Indian flag at the Sochi closing ceremony," Ramachandran told reporters in the media briefing on Sunday afternoon. "I want to provide more funds to athletes. I will continue to head world squash body too as my position here is in no way related to that," he said. (Read more)
India were suspended by the IOC in December 2012 for electing tainted men like Bhanot (secretary general) and Abhay Singh Chautala (president). IOC insisted that IOA must adhere to the Olympic Charter and that charge-sheeted persons should not be allowed to contest elections. IOA paid the price for defying the parent body saying the law of the land allowed Bhanot and Chautala to occupy chairs in the national Olympic committee.
Staging elections does not guarantee India's return to the Olympic fold. Senior IOA vice-president Tarlochan Singh had told NDTV this week that IOC will review the election process and the credentials of the men in the hotseat before giving IOA its nod. Insiders say Ramachandran and Mehta are 'proxy' candidates allegedly nominated by the Chautala-Bhanot camp.
The IOC had hinted recently that India could be brought back to the Olympic fold after the IOA elected a set of non-controversial office bearers. IOC president Thomas Bach had hinted India's return even before the Winter Olympics which began on Friday in Sochi if the IOA held its elections before the Games. In Sochi, three Indians could not take part in the opening ceremony under the tri-colour due to India's suspension.
Under increasing pressure from the IOC, India's sports ministry and Clean Sports India - a movement for a corruption-free sports in the country - India agreed to hold fresh elections. With major international events like the Commonwealth and Asian Games scheduled to be held this year, Indian athletes can now rekindle hopes of competing under the tri-colour once again. Only, it remains to be seen how soon a 'clean' IOA is admitted into the Olympic family.
Story first published on: Sunday, 09 February 2014 17:16 IST