Will Autonomy Issue Prevent India From Walking Under The Tricolour In Tokyo Olympics?

The tussle between the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) and the Union Sports Ministry over the issue of autonomy of sports bodies was expected to happen.
It has started yet again with IOA president Narinder Batra taking up the issue of Government “interference” in the running of the National Olympic Committee and National Sports Federations (NSFs).
Batra recently raised it during his meeting with Jerome Poivey, the head of NOC Relations Department of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), in Laussane. Following the meeting, Poive wrote a letter to Batra stressing “responsible autonomy” of the Olympic Movement in accordance with the Olympic Charter.
The IOC has supported IOA’s “efforts to work in close coordination with the competent authorities in India and establish a constructive dialogue in order to (i) avoid any undue interference and, at the same time, (ii) make sure that the basic principles of good governance are fully implemented within the Olympic Movement in India.”
At the same time, the IOC has also underscored its Recommendation 28 of Olympic Agenda 2020 in support of autonomy of the sports bodies.
The grouse of the IOA (and other NSFs in India) seems to have been arisen from the Sports Ministry’s attempt to revise the National Sports Development Code. When the Code was revised a few years ago and made mandatory, it was projected as a code of conduct for good governance and transparency.
However, there was pressure on the NSFs to adopt the code, which included restriction on age and tenure of office-bearers, in their constitution to make it absolutely binding.
The hands were tied for most of the NSFs, mostly dependent on Government funding to run their affairs.
Now, with the rumour doing the round that there may be an attempt to incorporate Lodha Committee recommendations in the revised code, one can hear grumbles from various sports organisations. Understandably, no one wants to experience the tough times the Indian Cricket Board (BCCI) has been going through.
As the NOC head, Batra has led the fight against further “interference” and has sought the IOC’s help to wriggle out of a scenario, which may be worse.
Reminding the Sports Ministry of India’s suspension from the Olympic family a few years ago, Batra has hinted that Government interference may bring the ignominy of the Indian contingent parading under the Olympic flag (instead of the Tricolour) in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Principle No. 13 of Recommendation 28 of Olympic Agenda 2020 says, “Any financial support allocated by the public authorities (in the framework of their public service missions) to sports organisations must not give rise to disproportionate obligations on the part of the beneficiaries… the support received from the public authorities must not be used in any indirect way to justify unwarranted interference or pressure within sports organisations, nor to take the place of their decision-making bodies.”
 It seems to have provided Batra and Company some hope.
One can expect some interesting times as far as the relation between the Sports Ministry and autonomous sports bodies is concerned.

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