The International Olympic Committee (IOC) on Thursday postponed its annual session, which was to be held in Mumbai in May 2023, due to ‘ongoing internal disputes, governance shortcomings and ongoing court cases’ that have engulfed the Indian Olympic Association (IOA).
The IOC has also issued an ultimatum to the IOA that failure to hold elections and resolve ‘all governance issues’ before the next Executive Board meeting in May would lead to the immediate suspension of the IOA, which could also lead to the Session being moved out of the country.
In a letter to IOA secretary-general Rajeev Mehta, the Director of Olympic solidarity and National Olympic Committee Relations, James MacLeod, said the suspension of the IOA would mean, ‘the athletes of India would no longer be able to represent the country and compete under the country’s flag/name at the Olympic Games and other international sports events, as the case may be.’
He added that the IOA would ‘no longer be entitled to operate as an NOC… and would no longer receive any funding from the Olympic Movement until the suspension is lifted’.
This is the second time in two months that the IOC has threatened to suspend India because of governance issues. In July, the IOC said it will be ‘forced’ to suspend the IOA should it fail to organise its ‘quadrennial elections within the coming weeks’.
The IOA’s elections were originally scheduled to be held in December last year. However, they have been kept in abeyance due to an ongoing court case, in which it is accused of violating provisions of the National Sports Code.
Since that letter, however, multiple issues have surfaced, including an internal battle within the IOA to claim power. While veteran administrator Anil Khanna replied to the previous IOC missive as the IOA’s acting president, athlete-turned-administrator Adille Sumariwalla claimed last month that he is the new interim chief of the national body.
This comes at a time when the Delhi High Court appointed a Committee of Administrators to run the IOA, a decision that has been stayed by the Supreme Court.
The IOC said they will hold a joint meeting with ‘all parties’ later this month in Lausanne. However, it added that the IOC Session, which was to be held in Mumbai in mid-2023, has been postponed.
“In view of the uncertain situation, the IOC Session that is due to take place in Mumbai in May 2023 is postponed until September/October 2023. Depending on the decisions that will be taken during the IOC Executive Board meeting in December 2022 relating to the NOC (National Olympic Committee) of India, the IOC Executive Board will decide as to whether the IOC Session in 2023 should be maintained in India or be relocated.”
The hosting of the IOC Session was seen as an important step for India in sports diplomacy, with some of the top administrators expected to take part in the event. During the session, the hosts of the 2030 Winter Olympics and the sports programme for the 2024 Paris Olympics and the 2028 Los Angeles Games is likely to be finalised, with cricket being one of the sports eyeing a spot in the 2028 edition.
However, the efforts to get the Session to India could amount to nothing if the IOA is suspended. In case the IOC does go ahead and ban India, it will be the second time in a decade that such an action would have been taken against the country. In December 2012, the Olympic body suspended the IOA for similar reasons – failure to comply with IOC rules in the election process – and it led to one of the most embarrassing situations in the country’s Olympic history.