Indian Olympic Association delivers a punch to sports ministry

New Delhi : The Indian Olympic Association (IOA) not only stayed away from a meeting called by the sports ministry to discuss the draft sports policy here Friday, it also invited all the national and state sports bodies for a separate conclave next month.
Nonetheless, the meeting did take place at the National Stadium, attended by top officials of the national federations of sports not on the Olympic list, Sports Authority of India (SAI) director general Ratan Watal told IANS.

IOA secretary-general Randhir Singh, while maintaining that the IOA has sought a month’s time to study the policy draft, said launching a new policy just a year ahead of the Olympic Games and especially ahead of the 2010 Delhi Commonwealth Games was a sensitive issue.

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“It’s a tricky situation; it could lead to international ramifications. If we agree to anything that is against the Olympic charter, it could jeopardise our hosting of the Commonwealth Games,” Singh told IANS.

“We have called all the national sports federations (NSF) for a meeting with IOA Sep 1 in Delhi and all the state associations Sep 7. We will discuss the draft and then we will discuss the outcome of these meetings with the IOC, OCA (Olympic Council of Asia) and the Commonwealth Games Federation before giving our views to the ministry,” he said.

The sports ministry, which is at odds with IOA president Suresh Kalmadi on various policy issues, had invited the IOA and all national sports federations to discuss the draft.

The ministry has also invited the state sports associations Aug 22 and eminent sports personalities Aug 28 to give their views on the draft policy while the general public can give its views by Aug 25 after reading the document posted on the ministry’s website,

“The ministry will consider the suggestions received and suitably revise the draft policy. Thereafter, other ministries would be consulted before placing the same before the cabinet for final approval,” the ministry said last month.

According to the draft of the ‘Comprehensive National Sports Policy 2007’, it is aimed at “… transforming India into a leading sporting nation within the next decade…”

Randhir Singh was very critical about the timing of the draft policy.

“We (IOA) will have to ensure that the new policy does not infringe the autonomy of the International Olympic Council (IOC) charter, especially when we are about to host the Commonwealth Games,” he said, taking a swipe at the sports minister.

“It’s not a child’s play. Sixty years after the country’s independence we are still making policies.”

The previous sports policy was promulgated in 2001.

Officials of NSFs were not ready to disclose the exact points of contention in the new draft. Some of them claimed that they had not read the text at all while others said that they had sought time to go through it.

Athletics Federation of India secretary Lalit Bhanot said that he had also sought time to study the text.

“We haven’t boycotted the meeting, but instead we have sought two-three weeks to study the document,” Bhanot told IANS.

National Rifle Association of India (NRAI) secretary Rajiv Bhatia also said “We have sought separate time from the ministry for a meeting after two weeks. We have sent a letter to this effect to the ministry.”

Another official said his federation could not afford to antagonise IOA, with which he has to work in tandem.

“How can we go against the IOA? We are first answerable to the IOA and then to the ministry,” he said on condition of anonymity.

“The IOA has verbally told all the federations not to attend Friday’s meeting, and sent a letter to all the federations for a meeting Sep 1.”