India took an important step towards returning to the Olympic fold following a constructive meeting with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) but officials believe theres still a long road ahead before the ban on the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) is lifted by the world governing body.
The meeting in Lausanne between the Indian delegation and the IOC helped in reaching a consensus over a number of issues that had resulted in IOA being suspended last December,most notably the governments role in implementing the sports code and conducting fresh elections. But the IOC has categorically stated that it will closely monitor and supervise the IOAs moves before revoking the suspension.
After Wednesdays meeting,the IOA has in principle agreed to make amendments to its constitution as demanded by the IOC and incorporate the contentious clauses that restrict the age and tenure of the officials elected to an IOA post.
Once the constitution is amended,they will have to conduct fresh elections,meaning the December 5 polls,in which Abhay Singh Chautala and Lalit Bhanot were elected president and general secretary respectively,have been declared null and void.
Beijing Games gold medallist Abhinav Bindra,who was a part of the delegation,described the meeting as a positive step forward. Theres a lot of mistrust between the athletes and officials so I was here to make a point that everyone involved in Indian sports wants this ban to be lifted. The fact that the IOC has chalked out a roadmap to get India back and everyone has agreed to it is a positive step ahead, Bindra said.
The meeting went along expected lines despite late pull-outs by top IOA officials V K Malhotra and Randhir Singh. In fact,officials of the Olympic Council of Asia,that had urged IOC to postpone the meeting,too was present for it.
The sports ministry termed the meeting a success,with minister Jitendra Singh claiming that the IOC has agreed to cooperate on the issue of the sports code.
It must be noted that the IOC had cited government interference as the prime reason for suspending India after the IOA followed the guidelines set by sports ministry during its elections.
The IOC has agreed to work with the Indian government for the new proposed sports bill. This is a major achievement and we will be working towards it with all stake holders of the international body, Singh said. The IOC,too,concurred with the ministers statement.
It was agreed in particular that the drafting of the new sports bill will be undertaken in close coordination with the IOA and the National Federations,and with prior consultation with the IOC to ensure that it will be fully compatible with the principles and rules of the Olympic Movement, the IOC said in a release.
But the road forward is a long and arduous one. Sources said it will take at least 75 days before India is restored as a member by the IOC that is if the IOA acts according to the IOCs wishes and meets the required deadlines. The IOA will now have to convene a special general body meeting to make the necessary amendments,get it approved by the IOC and then proceed with the election process. Itll be interesting to see whether there is consensus within to IOA to adopt the sports code,especially the age and tenure clause as it will directly impact the men who are running the associations, an IOA official said.
Crucially,the IOA will also be forming an Ethics Committee according to the guidelines formulated by the IOC itself,which virtually end Bhanots hopes of re-contesting for the elections.
The road ahead
* The IOC has ordered the IOA to hold an extraordinary meeting of its members to review the constitution and make necessary amendments. The association has to incorporate the age and tenure rules,and bring it in sync with the Olympic charter.
* The IOA will also have to adopt the sports code,which will be designed by the government in consultation with the IOC and the national sports federations. The new sports code is likely to be introduced by May 31.
* The IOA will need at least two-third majority to introduce the amendments. Once done,they will have to get it approved by the IOC. The entire procedure will take up to 15 days.
* Once the IOC gives its consent,the IOA will have to call an AGM and then conduct the elections. If the world governing is convinced that the election are held in a free and fair manner,following a democratic process,then its executive board will lift suspension.
* Top IOA officials suggest they will also have to approach the Delhi High Court and get their green signal to conduct the elections as per the Olympic Charter. It must be noted that the IOA elections were held in December in accordance with the governments guidelines based on a court order.