Has the government miffed the International Olympic Committee (IOC) by controlling the overall conduct of the South Asian Games (SAG) in Guwahati and Shillong?
Has the Indian Olympic Association’s (IOA) steadfast reluctance to involve itself in any financial matter related to SAG worked against the country’s interest to host future multi-sport events in India?
The answers to both the questions seem to be ‘yes’.
If the ministry and the IOA aren’t able to resolve their long-standing dispute in the near future, then the ongoing South Asian Games (SAG), in all probability, could turn out to be the last multi-sport event India have ever hosted. In simple words, India may find it difficult to bid for any IOC events like Olympics or Asian Games because both the IOA and the ministry are not on the same page.
The government’s active participation in hosting of the SAG hasn’t gone down well with the IOC, according to some IOA officials, as the world’s governing body of the Olympic movement deemed it as a direct intrusion into the Olympic Charter. The Games are being held under the aegis of South Asian Olympic Council affiliated to the IOC.
Sports minister Sarbananda Sonowal is the chairman of the SAG Organising Committee (OC) while Sports Authority of India (SAI) director general, Injeti Srinivas, is the CEO, OC. Not only this, the ministry has deployed its entire functionary in two cities to ensure smooth organisation of the Games.
But, this was the only way for the government to host a prestigious event like SAG after the IOA refused to take charge of the Games, summarily rejecting the ministry’s proposal to commit itself in the financial and technical aspect of the 12-day long event.
The IOA’s contention – post 2010 Delhi Commonwealth Games corruption scandal, when all the top IOA bosses were put behind bars – was that no one in the organisation was willing to take the big risk.
When a meeting was held between the ministry and IOA officials here two months back to discuss the SAG preparations, it resulted in a stormy affair. IOA president N Ramachandran informed during the meeting that everyone in IOA was scared after what happened in 2010 and that IOA officials don’t want to subject themselves to allegations and investigations post SAG.
It was decided during the meeting that IOA wouldn’t play any role in the SAG and that it would be entirely up to the government to ensure its conduct. However, this understanding between the ministry and the IOA has not been welcomed by the IOC, it has been learnt.
“We had informed the ministry that direct involvement of the government may irk the IOC. We are getting some feelers. This is a scary situation for every sports lover in India. We all want big events to be hosted in our country, but the ghost of CWG is still haunting us in the IOA. Both the ministry and IOA seriously need to find a solution to this soon otherwise India would not be able to host any big games like Olympic or Asian Games,” IOA secretary general Rajeev Mehta said.
“The government’s prestige was involved in hosting these Games and it’s good that it’s happening in India. But, the IOA was very clear from the beginning that our role would be strictly limited. We said a big ‘No’ to financial handling. We don’t want to go to jail. It’s up to the government to deal with future situation or if the IOC says something,” Mehta added.
But, as one ministry official said: “The Prime Minister had committed the SAARC nations that India will host the SAG. So, there was no question of whether IOA is on the same page or not.”