The last time a country was expelled from the Olympic movement was 40-odd years ago. The country was South Africa. And the reason for expulsion was Apartheid. December 10-11 is how close the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) had come to being thrown out, till that ignominious fate was averted by the IOA’s last-minute meeting declaring that the body would amend its constitution and that its “tainted” officials wouldn’t return after the February 9 elections. While the IOA and the officials standing down are protesting piety by talking of Indian athletes’ interests, it’s not altogether unfair to ask them what they were doing all this time. Because the suspicion is that, had the International Olympic Committee (IOC) not issued its ultimatum, the IOA would have gone about its business-as-usual—although its business has been very unusual since its suspension by the IOC last year.
The IOA—under compulsion, as is amply clear—has finally decided to amend its constitution to fall in line with the IOC’s “rules of good governance” stricture debarring tainted officials from being elected to a National Olympic Committee (NOC). But neither Messrs Abhay Singh Chautala and Lalit Bhanot nor the IOA are too happy about the turn of events. The IOA may have many reasons to take issue with the international body. But “good governance” cannot be one of them. Nor should the officials in question and the body feel they’ve done India’s athletes a favour. If they believe they are sacrificing some notional dignity, it’s actually their self-interest and ego that are being set aside so that Indian Olympians’ dignity is preserved and their dreams for Rio 2016 are not killed. To persist in its stubbornness would have been tantamount to destroying India’s prospects for gently easing itself up the medals tally after the recent improvements in its performance. But after the dust has settled on this matter, the IOA needs to ponder long-term reform. Its February elections should look for a professional and competent officials who advance the overhaul of India’s sporting management.