NEW DELHI: Abhinav Bindra, India’s first individual Olympic gold medallist, has strongly advocated the need to have an ‘appointed’ secretary general in the Indian Olympic Association (IOA), instead of an ‘elected’ office-bearer, which was the norm earlier. Bindra was part of the Indian delegation comprising representatives from the IOA, Olympic Council of Asia (OCA), sports ministry, Sports Authority of India (SAI) and IOC member in India, Nita Ambani (online), which met the International Olympic Committee‘s (IOC) officials at the world body’s headquarters in Lausanne on September 27.
In an exclusive interview to TOI, Bindra, who attended the meeting as ‘Athletes Representatives’, informed about the discussions which took place at the marathon meeting and the road ahead for the IOA and the Indian sports administration at large and how to set the house in order. This is the first time that a member of the delegation has spoken about the closed-door meeting.
Bindra’s views become all the more important as they come on the eve of the first official meeting of Justice (retd) L Nageswara Rao with the country’s key sports officials, administrators, athletes and petitioners (Rahul Mehra & others) at the JLN Complex in the Capital on Friday to put the IOA’s election process in motion. Excerpts…
Tell us about the roadmap discussed in Lausanne to help IOA avoid suspension over its failure to hold elections…
The roadmap has clearly been defined in the IOC Summary which was placed before the Supreme Court. In brief, the IOA constitution must be amended to include necessary governance reforms to which effect the IOC/OCA will work together with the honourable judge appointed by the SC. In principle, all points raised by the High Court’s judgement of August 16 were agreeable except the need to have two-third majority for re-election (simple majority is sufficient) and the need to refine and re-discuss the mechanism on how to bring in 25 percent sportspersons into the general assembly and executive committee. Once the draft constitution is finalised in agreement with the IOC/OCA, it needs to be adopted by the IOA general assembly paving the way for elections prior to the IOC executive board (EB) in early December.
IOC, in its roadmap shared with Indian delegates, has proposed to have an ‘appointed’ secretary general in the IOA. Do you think this is the way forward?
It’s a common practice in sports now. Many national Olympic committees (NOCs), international federations (IFs) and national federations (NFs) follow this principle. Much of the performance in sports depends on the day-to-day running of sports. Professionalising this and bringing efficiency into day-to-day functioning would be a very welcome move which eventually would help our athletes.
Would there be any tenure restriction applied to the appointed secretary general in the amended IOA constitution?
This is clearly something that can be worked upon and I expect the new leadership and board to take a call on this. All I can say is that much is dependent on the performance of an individual and there is a performance review of every employee in any organisation.
Where did the IOA and Indian sports administrators go wrong in handling the whole situation?
Until and unless you create structures in an organisation that builds a strong, responsible, skilled and autonomous institutional structure, governance issues will continue to arise. This isn’t rocket science. We must get this right and the time is now.
The IOC has certain reservations over the appointment of 25 percent sportspersons as voting members while the State Olympic Associations (SOAs) are also bound to lose their voting rights. Your thoughts…
Having athletes represented in decision-making would be very welcome. The need for the IOA to go back to a primary membership (Olympics, NSFs and those who have their sports in Asian Games and CWG) is in my opinion a very important step. We have to ensure that reforms reach the bottom of the pyramid. The SOAs can be members of the IOA without voting rights. A vote in any case doesn’t stop them from carrying out their mission in their respective states. This is something which was discussed and agreed upon in the Lausanne meeting.

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By Dipak

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