Kalmadi's last post crumbles
Athletics: Dahlan Al Hamad from Qatar takes over as Asian body president
Suresh Kalmadi lost the final post he was hanging on to in the athletics officialdom when he was ousted by Dahlan Al Hamad of Qatar as the president of the Asian Athletics Association (AAA) here on Monday.
In a closely-fought election to the AAA Council, Dahlan cornered the top post with a 20-18 victory. Seven votes in the 45-member congress were declared invalid, nailing Kalmadi’s fate eventually.
The former Indian Olympic Association president had taken over the reins of AAA in 2000 and won successive elections to retain his hold over the continental body, through which he had a place in the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) too, as the Area Representative.
The 69-year-old administrator will cease to hold that post now but he is likely to remain in the AAA as an honorary life president, according to AAA sources.
Kalmadi refused to talk to the media and did not even put in an appearance in front of the waiting reporters at the Holdiay Inn hotel where the elections were held.
His close aide Lalit Bhanot, in a brief statement, praised the work done by Kalmadi and wished the new team headed by Al Hamad good luck in their endeavour to promote the sport in the continent.
Kalmadi’s candidature had come under fire from various quarters, given the corruption charges against him in the conduct of the Commonwealth Games. But the IAAF President Lamine Diack, who was present at the AAA meeting, refused to hold that against him.
“Has he been convicted by a court yet? For me, till he is convicted by a court, till a court decides he is guilty, he is not guilty,” said Diack, adding that the AAA had voted for a change.
“It is for the new council to deliver. It doesn’t mean that Kalmadi has not delivered. But it is for the new team to take the work forward,” said the veteran administrator.
That the elections would be a close-run thing was evident in the build-up itself.
Though the Qatar camp had sounded confident of unseating Kalmadi, the Pune strongman was not keen to yield way easily but he was finally stumped by the way the voting panned out.
“The seven invalid votes were crucial. The delegates were told either to cross or to put a tick mark against the names of the candidates but some of them did both, ruining our chances. This was not an election for us to lose,” a disappointed Indian official said on condition of anonymity, even as the Qataris celebrated.
The council also elected two women representatives for the first time – earlier there was only one – with former athlete Ruqaya Mansoor Ebrahim Al Ghasara of Bahrain and Mala Sakonhninhom of Laos being the victors. Maurice R Nicholas of Singapore will continue to be the secretary-treasurer.
The new council will decide on the next Asian Championships in the next couple of days. Qatar and China are the candidates.
DH News Service
The new AAA council: President: Dahlan Al Hamad (Qatar); Secretary-treasurer: Maurice R Nicholas (Singapore); Senior vice-president: Du Zhaocai (China); Vice-presidents: Tanaka Katsuyuki (Japan), Surangpong Ariyamongkol (Thailand), Alexey Kondrat (Kazakhstan), Eidy Alijani (Iran), Tigor Tanjung (Indonesia). Women members: Ruqaya Al Ghasara (Bahrain), Mala Sakonhninhom (Laos). Council members: William J Ko (Hong Kong), Osma Mohd Hnean Al Serham (Jordan), Oh Dong Jin (South Korea), R Annamalai (Malaysia), Rabi Rajkarmikar (Nepal), Ching Chaong Wang (Taipei), Hoang Manh Cuong (Vietnam), Nasser Sultan Abdulla (UAE).