International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Thomas Bach was a busy man during his one-day stopover in New Delhi, on way to Australia. The 61-year-old German began his day by interacting with administrators of various sports disciplines under the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) umbrella, had a luncheon with sports minister Sarbananda Sonowal and also called upon Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Ahead of Bach’s whirlwind visit there was anticipation of India throwing the hat into the ring to bid for the 2024 Olympics. But by the end of the day the IOC president delivered the reality check.
Any supposition that India would bid for the 2024 Games was dismissed as mere ‘speculation’ by Bach, who also said that he was ‘surprised’ by the news doing the rounds.
“We were aware of this speculation and we were surprised by the speculation. Because of different reasons, we think it maybe a bit too quick for India to successfully host the 2024 Games,” Bach said.
It was out of curiosity that Bach asked the prime minister if there was any truth in India bidding for the Olympics. “We were asking the question and we were happy to see that the prime minister is sharing our opinion that it is too early. The prime minister is seriously looking at an Olympics candidature bid but wants to be well-prepared and have all the expertise ready. He also agrees that it may be a little bit difficult, from now till September 15 — deadline for submission of bids. We will be in contact for any possibility (of an Olympic bid) in the future,” Bach added.
India would have been up against Paris, Hamburg, Rome and Budapest, if a bid was made. The cost of hosting the Games, a conservative estimate without taking into account inflation, was pegged at $15 billion. Also with Japan hosting the 2020 Olympics and China in the race to host the Winter Games two years later, an Asian country successfully bidding for the 2024 Games seemed unlikely.
As the day wound down, Bach’s visit proved to be more of an exercise in understanding the ground reality that existed in the IOA, which was de-recognised for 14 months for electing corruption-tainted officials. A little over a year after the IOA was reinstated, Bach met administrators to hear them out and they in-turn requested the IOC chief to convey to the prime minister that the sports ministry was interfering with the IOA’s autonomy by trying to enforce the sports code, which caps 70 as the age limit for office-bearers.
Need autonomy in sports
Bach said he spoke to the prime minister about the clauses in the sports bill which the IOA members were unhappy with. “We (IOC) mentioned the issue of autonomy because autonomy and good governance are two sides of the same coin. We expressed the opinion to the prime minister and he said he was in favour of autonomy in different parts of society, including sport,” Bach said.
The IOC president, who sat alongside IOA president N Ramachandran, said the Indian body still needs to find its feet.
“After the IOA suspension ended last year, this was an opportunity to discuss how to make the future for Indian sport brighter. The IOA still has to find its feet. India is a sleeping giant and I have discussed with the prime minister and the IOA members on how to wake up this sleeping giant. In this regard we have also signed a tripartite agreement — between the IOA, IOC and the Indian government — which will help in the uplift of Indian athletes. The IOC will assist with regard to providing sporting technology, coaches and training of coaches and administrators,” Bach said.z