Tuesday 11 February 2014

Back from Isolation - Indian Olympic Story

It was in 2012 when the International Olympic Committee (IOC) decided to take that drastic step - a decision which was necessary from administration point of view specifically at the conduct of the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) post Commonwealth Games 2010.

There were huge cries, issues of false pride and other theatrics from Indian officials. The news of Indian Olympic Association being banned dominated the sports news segment for a day, or a two or if persisted a week and nothing more apart from the periodic cameos. It was usual business from then on. The corruption charges of the CWG 2010 went back to being a political matter than a sporting matter.

If CWG 2010 and various accusations are one hand; it is the manner in which the postmortem was conducted that irked many followers of Indian Olympics. Clearly, this was an administrative issue(s) and the so-called 'God fathers' of Indian Olympic movement ignored the media scrutiny and the threat from the IOC. They took that one extra step and elected candidates who were either charge sheeted or being prosecuted by Indian judiciary or on bail. Which era are they living in?

I believe the ban was justified. It tempered down the egos and the softened the temerarious officials - the tainted ones who put in their names without shame or consideration. Something had to happen and IOC made a bold move and banned the entire association till the time the internal crisis were resolved. A cut-off from the Olympic tree.

It took some time for the news to sink in, analyse, react and then formulate a game plan to get back into the Olympic fold. There were several mails exchanged and the pressure was less considering 2013 was a non-Olympic year. When the decision was finally taken, it was little late. The IOA as a organisation missed the Olympic train. 

Indian contingent classified as Independent Athletes marched into the Opening Ceremony under Olympic flag. These three athletes - a five time Olympian Shiv Keshavan, Himanshu Thakur and Nadeem Iqbal were the only ones to be 'independent' and without a national flag at the Sochi Winter Olympics. 
Indian Athletes under Olympic Flag at Sochi 2014 - Getty Images
One can script a drama surrounding these episodes and echoing various sentiments of many people involved in this. A new scene was shot two days ago when the new IOA officials were elected, ably observed by an IOC delegation headed by IOC member Robin Mitchell.

Narayna Ramachandran, President of the World Squash Federation and the brother of BCCI supremo N. Srinivasan, was elected as the new President; Rajeev Mehta and Anil Khanna chosen as the new Secretary General and Treasurer respectively.

"The IOC observers told the EB members of the IOC about the IOA elections being held in full respect of the recently passed NOC constitution, and this new constitution complies with all IOC requirements, including the main clause that no person convicted or charge-framed can run for a position within the organisation."

History was made at Sochi today - for the first time in Olympic chronicles that a suspension of an NOC has been lifted during the Olympic Games and with immediate effect.

What does this mean? The three independent athletes at the Sochi Games can now compete under Indian flag, can walk behind their national flag at the Closing ceremony and as a symbolic way of depicting the recognition of three Indian athletes - Indian flag will be raised at the Games village.

IOC officials have authored a perfect ending to this year old saga which will bring cheers to millions of sports fans in India and more so for the three athletes who are relieved to have seen this positive development.

Redemption is one thing, it is the next set of steps that are crucial. How different will the current set of administrators be from the previous incumbents?

Coming back from isolation is a small victory for Indian Olympic movement and there are many miles to cover before we can actually rejoice. For now, we are back and I only wish - it is to move forward.

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