Asian Games 2018: IOA brings as much shame to India, as athletes bring glory

Jyotsna Mohan Bhargava
Jyotsna Mohan BhargavaAug 02, 2018 | 20:13

Asian Games 2018: IOA brings as much shame to India, as athletes bring glory

We now have an athlete, Hima Das, who has won an unprecedented track gold medal on the international stage. We also have a gymnast, Dipa Karmakar, who lands the Produnova the way we have only seen the Romanians or the Russians master it until now. Kidambi Srikanth became the world number one in Badminton and at any given time, four or five Indian shuttlers are in running for a podium finish. Yet, it seems the more things change in Indian sports, the more they remain the same.


The Asian Games are around the corner, it’s an important milestone in the calendar of our athletes and a reality check on their handwork, especially against the big ticket, the Chinese. While the attention should ideally be on them and their preparations, the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) is instead busy playing its own game.

India's athlete delegation shown at the opening ceremonies to the 2010 Asian Games in Guangzhou. (Photo: Associated Press)

Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh is not a name most of us associate with. Yet, this man is now the Chef De Mission of the Indian contingent for the forthcoming games. To say that the responsibility of this position is enormous would be an understatement. He will be in charge of more than 500 men and women, some of whom, like Hima Das, have come from such extreme poverty.

The newly appointed Chef De Mission plays many other roles. He is an MP who has been accused of murder. In this country, bursting at the seams with able people’, this then is the IOA’s choice to represent our country globally. Giving him a helping hand at the games will be a man who is making his former boss Suresh Kalmadi proud. Rajkumar Sacheti is under investigation by the CBI while despite the serious corruption charges against him, Kalmadi was very generously offered the post of lifetime patron by the IOC two years ago. He declined, probably with a very heavy heart, but you can’t keep a politician down. He has recently been made life president of the Asian Athletics Association for his “contribution to athletics”. It’s all in the family. Lalit Bhanot is overseeing the preparation for the Asian games, his stint in jail for CWG corruption long forgotten.


Par for the course then are episodes like what took place at the CWG games village where Indian athletes have been accused of destroying things like cushion covers and lamps. IOA has been thrust with a fine of Rs 74,000 for the damages. Disrespect and a sense of entitlement come so easy to so many of us, that it doesn’t take long to filter down. While the IOA has come down hard on the athletes for bringing the country’s name into disrepute, it ironically continues to send officials with dubious backgrounds to represent us on the international stage. Rajyavardhan Rathore, the most qualified Sports Minister in a long time has also chosen to remain silent.

Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh. (Photo: Facebook)

The glory at these games will be for the officials, the brickbats only for the non-performing athletes. When was the last time, any of these politicians took responsibility of their federations and stepped down? Forget sports management as it is done in the rich sporting nations, we don’t even believe in fair administration or then our sporting body doesn’t have a handle on the pulse. The IOA has not cleared our football teams for the games calling them “incompetent”. This bizarre decision has come at a time when at least the men’s team is seeing resurgence and needs all the encouragement it can get. Who can forget Captain Sunil Chettri literally begging the country for support? Priyaranjan Das Munsi ruled the AIFF for almost 20 years, and the sport reached a nadir. After him the baton passed to Praful Patel and perhaps it’s a sign of things, the football team’s recent good show comes while the NCP leader’s election continues to be declared void by the court.


But what ails football also afflicts most of our other sports. There have been no lessons learnt from 2012 when the International Olympic Committee suspended the IOA for government interference. Many would argue this is not the same, but, it is apples to apples. Political tentacles have been dug so fast and hard into all our sports federation that it’s a wasted debate.

The Home Ministry has cleared a draft bill that looks to clean up Indian sports with a maximum punishment of five years in jail. But the “Prevention of Fraud” bill will be a sham if people with dubious backgrounds continue to be such an integral influence on our sports. But forget cleaning up its act, the IOA is more interested in palming off everything. It has categorically refused to pay for the ceremonial and playing kits for athletes who belong to sports that are not affiliated with the IOA, saying that the organisation is not a rich one. Instead of prepping up for the games in the last stretch, more than 100 athletes are now at the mercy of some generous sponsor.

Will the IOA show the same financial restrictions when it comes to the large contingent of Indian officials who will shamelessly accompany our teams? I suspect not. At last count, more than 270 officials were part of the Indian contingent. At the Rio Olympics, India was more in the news with what went on outside the arena, the then sports minister Vijay Goel and his entourage were almost stripped of their accreditation for offensive behaviour. Hopefully these other games will remain under control in Indonesia.

Last updated: August 02, 2018 | 20:13
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