India Olympics elections go ahead despite suspension
NEW DELHI (AFP) –
India’s Olympic Association shrugged off its suspension from the IOC by pressing ahead Wednesday with a vote to install the organiser of the scandal-plagued 2010 Commonwealth Games as its new head.
A day after the International Olympic Committee ordered the scrapping of Wednesday’s internal elections in India, the national association insisted it had no option but to hold the polls in which the outcome is a formality.
Newspapers meanwhile lined up to condemn the IOA for “disgracing India” in its clash with the world governing body which means Indian athletes will not be able to compete in the Olympics under the national flag and see funding frozen.
The IOC announced the open-ended suspension Tuesday after a meeting at its Swiss headquarters, saying the Indian federation had “failed to comply to the Olympic charter”.
The “IOA is not entitled to hold any election until all pending issues are resolved,” it added in a statement.
But the IOA’s acting president Vijay Kumar Malhotra said the election process would continue, with the results expected to be announced on Wednesday evening.
Malhotra said the issue would be under discussion at the IOA’s annual general meeting, which is also taking place in New Delhi on Wednesday.
“We had been ordered by the Delhi High Court to follow the government’s sports code in the elections and we have done that,” Malhotra told reporters.
“We can’t go against the law of the land.”
The outcome is not in doubt, with Lalit Bhanot set to be elected unopposed as secretary-general even though he is currently on bail, facing corruption charges in connection with his organisation of the 2010 Commonwealth Games in New Delhi.
His path was cleared last month when a rival faction led by IOC member Randhir Singh withdrew from the contest for the association’s top posts.
The IOC Ethics Commission had in October specifically warned the Indian body against allowing Bhanot to compete in the election which should also see his ally Abhey Singh Chautala take over as IOA president.
Bhanot was secretary-general of the organising committee for the 2010 games which were hit by venue delays, shoddy construction and budget overruns that saw the cost of the event triple to $6 billion.
The Indian government — which has been embroiled in corruption scandals — has kept its distance from the IOA during the dispute.
But on Wednesday the sports minister criticised the association for operating its own code of conduct which was at odds with government guidelines.
“The ministry told the IOA many times to amend its constitution and include the sports code, but they did not listen” Jitendra Singh told reporters in New Delhi.
“The IOC’s decision is very unfortunate,” the minister added. “We will do our best to ensure our sportspersons are not affected.”
The Indian media said the suspension could be a positive move to clean up the tainted sports administration.
“Golden day for Indian sports,” said a headline in the Hindustan Times, which added “the suspension has provided us with a chance to clean up the mess the Indian Olympic Association is in”.
Under the headline “Olympian Shame”, the Mail Today said the IOA had “become the playground of self-seeking officials and their political patrons… bringing disgrace upon India”.