Voluntary reform is the only way out for Olympic pariah India

December 26, 2012

The outrage has simmered down, cricket has cast its usual mammoth shadow and there are burning, more important, social issues to deal with.

No wonder, there is simply no trace of the gloom that had descended on India after the world’s second most populous nation was kicked out of Olympic family earlier this month.

And no sign of a way out either.

The Indian Olympic Association (IOA) was suspended primarily because of government interference in its controversial Dec. 5 election and the sports ministry’s zeal to make its presence felt in every National Sports Federation (NSF) actually weakens India’s bid to get the Olympic ban lifted.

Frustrated by the functioning of the heavily-politicised NSFs, many saw the Olympic suspension as a blessing in disguise.

“When medicine doesn’t work, what do you do? You go for surgery and we had reached that stage,” former shooter Moraad Ali Khan recently told Reuters.

“Only a drastic step like this could have shaken the ailing system.”

It’s a complicated scenario now. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) expects the NSFs to work independently of their government, going only by the Olympic Charters and their constitution.

The problem in India is the NSFs survive largely on the sports ministry largesse, naturally in no position to defy the government.

The fact that most of the NSFs are run shoddily by the same sports administrators for decades in some cases, strengthens the sports ministry’s case to intervene in their functioning.

This leads to a situation where an NSF finds itself in a catch-22 situation.

Going by the sports ministry and its controversial Sports Code, which seeks to limit term and age of the administrators, automatically invites suspension from the respective world governing body.

At the same time, defying the ministry incurs immediate derecognition which means no fund and no access to the Sports Authority of India infrastructures.

The only way out is if every NSF sets its house in order, without any visible government influence, and ensure good governance.

They can voluntarily change their constitution to incorporate the main features of the Sports Code, which would naturally satisfy the sports ministry without antagonising the IOC, which acknowledges the importance of good governance in NSFs.

Any such exercise would inevitably meet with vehement opposition from the long-standing NSF top brasses who are set to lose but reform has to come from within if India is to wriggle out of the Olympic wilderness.

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