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SBD Global/December 6, 2012/Olympics

Banned Indian Olympic Association Defies IOC, Goes Ahead With Elections

Newly elected IOA Secretary General Lalit Bhanot, center, talks to IOA members during a break in voting Wednesday in New Delhi.
The Indian Olympic Association went ahead with its Annual General Meeting and elections Wednesday, "defying the ban imposed by the IOC," according to the PTI. IOA acting President V.K. Malhotra said, "The house unanimously decided that we did not do anything wrong by going ahead with the election process. We had already communicated to the IOC that the IOA will have to go ahead with the elections under the sports code because of the Delhi High Court order." Malhotra said that the IOA has "sought Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's intervention in the matter." Malhotra: "We are hoping to sort the issue by sitting together with the representatives of IOC, IOA and the government. We have to find a common ground between the Olympic Charter, Sports Code and the Delhi HC order" (PTI, 12/5).

ELECTIONS QUESTIONED: The PTI also reported Abhay Singh Chautala took over as IOA president while the "tainted" sports administrator Lalit Bhanot became the secretary general after the IOA "conducted its controversial elections," defying the IOC's directive not to go ahead with the polls. Chautala and Bhanot were declared elected unopposed in the polls conducted by an Election Commission made up of retired high court justices, just a day after the IOC suspended the national Olympic body. After his election to the high-profile post, Chautala "defended the decision to go ahead with the polls despite IOC's directive, saying that the IOA had to abide by the Delhi High Court order." Chautala: "We have completed a free and fair election under three eminent retired high court justices. I want to reiterate that we have not done anything wrong by going ahead with the polls. We have to obey the law of the land." Bhanot, who was jailed and later released on bail for his alleged involvement in the Commonwealth Games corruption scandal, said that he would "quit from the post of IOA secretary general if he is proven guilty by the law of the land." Bhanot: "I have not been proven guilty. I will quit if I am proven guilty by the law of the land." Senior VP Virendra Nanavati and Treasurer N Ramachandran were respectively elected unopposed to their respective posts (PTI, 12/5).

'DEFIANT' INDIA: REUTERS' Chakraborty & Grohmann reported "defiant" Indian officials named Bhanot as the secretary general "after his rivals had pulled out." Bhanot spent 11 months in custody last year following corruption charges. The IOC has "dismissed the election outcome." IOC spokesperson Mark Adams said, "Those elections are null and void, they don't count. They can go ahead with them, but they won't have any validity. We have to regain our confidence that the Indian Olympic Association is acting independently of government and that the government is not interfering. At the moment, the IOC is not satisfied that this is the case" (REUTERS, 12/5). The PTI reported IOA Sports Minister Jitendra Singh said that he "does not have the mandate or the jurisdiction to interfere in the matter, but will still try to engage with the IOC to get the ban reversed." Jitendra Singh: "I will once again talk to the IOC and write to them that let’s talk about solving this problem for the future of Indian sportspersons. The government will take every step, and we are willing to mediate. In the next few days I will also talk to sportspersons on the matter" (PTI, 12/5).

''HUGE EMBARRASSMENT'': The PTI also reported the IOC in its suspension letter to the IOA "made it clear the national sports body would remain suspended until it was in a position to satisfy all the conditions set out in the Olympic Charter and IOC’s requirements." The requirements included "to guarantee its full autonomy; to ensure free and fair elections in conformity with its own statutes and the Olympic Charter; and to implement all basic principles of ethics and good governance in its daily management" (PTI, 12/5). The PTI also reported Bharatiya Janata Party leader Arun Jaitley described the suspension as a "huge embarrassment." Jaitley asked the government and IOA to "display sportsmanship to resolve the crisis." Jaitley: "We believe that government and the IOA have to display an element of sportsmanship so that Indian sport can be safe. It's a huge national and international embarrassment" (PTI, 12/5).

ATHLETES HOPE FOR CHANGE: REUTERS' Chakraborty wrote Indian athletes have "lamented the ban dished out" by the IOC. The ban means an "effective end to funding from the IOC, no Indian officials attending Olympic meetings and Indian athletes banned from competing at the Olympics under their country's flag." Shooter Joydeep Karmakar said, "This is unfortunate. As a sportsperson, I feel like I have been orphaned." Former double trap shooter Moraad Ali Khan said, "Standing on the podium with the national anthem being played and the nation's flag unfurled, it's a different feeling altogether and it has been taken away from Indian athletes. But when medicine doesn't work, what do you do? You go for surgery and we had reached that stage" (REUTERS, 12/5).
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