Olympics - 30 Nov 2012 - The Indian Olympic Association is going ahead with elections despite the threat of suspension by the International Olympic Committee, which could take action as early as next week’s executive board meeting in Lausanne.
Abhay Chautala, the chair of the Indian Boxing Federation, is set to be elected unopposed as president of the IOA, while Lalit Bhanot is in line to be elected, also unopposed, as secretary general.
This is despite the fact that the IOC has threatened to suspend the Indian body because of concerns that the elections would adhere to a controversial government sports code, in contravention of the Olympic Charter.
The elections, initially set for November 25, were delayed until December 5, but have become a formality after other contenders for the senior posts withdrew their nominations.
Earlier this week, IOC member Randhir Singh, until now the secretary general of the IOA, pulled out of the presidential election, citing the IOC’s threat to derecognise the IOA, the result of a long-running dispute between the IOC and the Indian government over the latter’s attempts to impose restrictions on the duration of officials’ terms of office and an age limit.
He will be succeeded as secretary general by Bhanot, who stood unopposed after K Murugan, secretary general of the Volleyball Federation of India, and Mukesh Kumar, general secretary of the Judo Federation of India, pulled out of the running.
Bhanot is a controversial figure, having previously been jailed in connection with an alleged corruption scandal relating to Delhi’s hosting of the 2010 Commonwealth Games, and his election is likely to cause concern at the IOC.
The IOC warned of action against the IOA, adding that it would not be acceding to a request to send delegates to monitor the elections, in a letter sent to the Indian body by IOC director general Christophe de Kepper.
It read: “It is hereby confirmed that a proposal for suspension of the IOA will be presented to the IOC executive board at its next meeting on 4-5 December 2012.
“The issues at hand have been discussed for more than two years and have unfortunately not been resolved adequately by the government authorities and the IOA in spite of all efforts made by the IOC.
“Consequently, the IOC and the Olympic Council of Asia will not send delegates to India at this stage.”
The IOC called on the IOA to present its position by today and the latter has said that it will send a delegation, including Hockey India general secretary Narendra Batra and lawyer RK Anand, to Lausanne this weekend, but this may not be enough to avoid a suspension.
IOA officials have today been meeting with Indian sports minister Jitendra Singh to resolve the dispute over the sports code, with the latter denying that its rules were the stumbling block and seeking a meeting with the IOC.
He told NDTV: "The government is just providing a helping hand to the IOA to resolve the matter. The whole mess is between the IOC and the IOA and the government was just trying to play a helping hand.
"The sports code is exactly the same as the IOC Charter. It is in the same terms as our code regarding age, term or the clean practices. So there is no problem there."
However, his view is not shared by Randhir Singh, who had yesterday called for the elections to be delayed again, telling Reuters: “I think we can still avoid it [suspension] by calling off the elections. The IOC has clearly said that they will not recognise the election results in the current scenario. What is the hurry?
“There is a court hearing [in Delhi] on December 17 on the issue, so they [the IOA] could have waited for that. The IOA, the IOC and Indian government can sit down and solve this issue and the elections can be held after that.”
The elections were intended to find a permanent replacement for Suresh Kalmadi, the corruption-tainted former president of the IOA, who had said that he would not stand for the post again.
The IOC was concerned at the possibility that Kalmadi, who was indicted and imprisoned in the same Commonwealth Games corruption scandal as that involving Bhanot, could make a new bid to seize power at the IOA, where he apparently retains some influential supporters.