New Delhi, June 19 (IANS): India's return to the international Olympic fold after serving a 14-month ban has coincided with ascent of Narayanaswamy Ramachandran as president of the Indian Olympic Association (IOA). And in less than four months things seem to have gone haywire for the new chief and he is seen as only a faction leader.
The IOA is vertically divided on the question bidding for the 2019 Asian Games after Vietnam pulled out, citing financial constraints. Ramachandran and his associates are not keen on bidding after what had happened in the run-up to the 2010 Commonwealth Games. The chargesheeting of the then IOA chief Suresh Kalmadi and his right-hand man Lalit Bhanot and their jailing for a considerable period are unnerving for him.
The president is opposed by two of his key aides, the secretary general and the treasurer, both of whom are mobilising support for hosting the Games.
Secretary general Rajeev Mehta, who is seen as a Kalmadi man, sought the permission of the house to bid for the Asian Games. His cryptic comment when reminded of Ramchandran's stand was that "anyone can say anything, ultimately it is for the general house to decide these things".
Being a shrewd sports administrator, Ramachandran is well aware of the ramifications if anything goes wrong and given the fact that it would be his only term, he would not want to be remembered by Indian sport for the wrong reasons.
Ramachandran is clear in his thinking and a lot of people may buy his argument that the IOA's prime concern should be to become financially independent so that the government's hold on sports is reduced considerably.
The protagonists of the bid argue that holding mega events is a matter of pride for the country and a big way forward for the Indian sport. They feel that the lessons of the Commonwealth Games will help them to do a much better job and more efficiently if given an opportunity to host the 2019 Games. They say that if the sports officials confine themselves to only in the conduct of the Games without taking the responsibility for financial control, they can do a great job of organising the Games.
State Olympic association officials have another issue. the ask whether Delhi has any divine right to hold all the mega events.
Way forward for Indians sports doen't mean concentrating all sports infrastructure in Delhi, these events should be held in other metropolitan cities, too, and a lot of states have good infrastructure thanks to hosting the National Games.
Ideally cities like Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Hyderabad, Bangalore and Pune, have the world-class infrastructure and the state governments would do a lot more to organise such mega events.
A top official in the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA), which organises the Asian Games, is backing Mehta and Co. and feels India should bid for the Games. This was the same man, who few month back felt that India has zero chance of hosting the Games in the aftermath of the Commonwealth Games.
The bid supporters cite new sports minisgter Sarbananda Sonowal's remark that the government would support the bid, not realising that it has to be cleared by the union cabinet.
All those who were up in arms over the way the Commonwealth games were organised, are now in favour of hosting the 2019 Asian Games. Curiously, India's OCA official is backing the anti-Ramachandran group.
However, the IOA is forgetting that it is making a new start and a wrong step will take it again back to the dark days. For once, one could only stand by Ramachandran, who is right in saying that the IOA should first commercialise itself rather than indulging in tax payers money.
The point missed by the bidders is that the time is running out and neither the IOA nor the union government had a formal contact to discuss the issue.
India in 2007 lost the bid for hosting this year's Asian Games to Incheon, South Korea.
Indonesia also offered to host the Games. In fact, in November 2012, the Vietnamese capital city of Hanoi beat Surabaya, Indonesia's second largest city, in the race to host the Asian Games. With these frontrunners with headstart, what chance India has to get the Games.