By Utpal Borpujari
After Union Sports Minister M S Gill, the never-retiring politician heads of sports bodies now have one more opponent to contend with.
A bunch of former top sportspersons who have earned laurels for India in the international arena, have joined hands to form Clean Sports India, a forum to take on politicians like Suresh Kalmadi and Vijay Kumar Malhotra who they allege are misusing the principles of autonomy of the Olympic Movement for their personal ends.
Former Olympians like hockey star Pargat Singh, athletes Sriram Singh, Vandana Rao, Ashwini Nachappa and Vandana Shanbag as well as former international athletes Reeth Abraham, Bhogeshwar Barua and Sunita Godara and footballer Tashen Borah are part of the initiative.
While the initiative will be formally announced on Wednesday, the International Olympic Day, in Delhi, those behind Clean Sports India told Deccan Herald that the preparations to form such a body with former sportspersons had been going on for quite some time.
As a first step towards taking on the politician lobby, these athletes have sent an open letter to International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Jacques Rogge, stating that using the ruse of the Olympic movement’s autonomy, the politicians heading sports bodies had been “fooling” the nation.
“They remind the Indian sports fraternity time and again that if this ‘autonomy’ of sports bodies is threatened, India will be banned from International Olympic Movement whereas the same Olympic bodies are heavily interlinked to the political systems and state power. They have been fooling the nation with this fairy tale for decades to run the Indian sport like their fiefdom,” the letter says.
The former sports stars have also alleged that elections to sports bodies are manipulated by politicians, civil servants, military officials and businessmen using the state power and money.
“Over a period of time, sports politicians made elections of sports bodies a mockery of democracy. Most of the times they get elected unanimously as no one even dares to file a nomination,” they have said, adding that no former sportsperson in India could hope to head a sports body.
The letter has also been signed by actor and sports writer-commentator Tom Alter and equestrian sports personality and former civil servant B V P Rao.
Rao told Deccan Herald that while current sports personalities were fully supportive of the idea, Clean Sports India had made it a point not to directly involve them in the movement as they be victimized by their associations if they did so.
“Indian sport has become victim of power, corruption and mismanagement for decades. No wonder India with over a billion population could win only one individual Olympic gold medal so far. That speaks volumes about the governance of Indian sports by politicians and other non sports persons,” the former sportspersons have told Rogge.
They agree that sportspersons have also been at fault for not asserting their rights, and say they have plans to take up activities like sports runs, discussions, seminars, etc., to educate the people to create public opinion against the mismanagement of sports by non-sports persons.