Decks cleared for India's return to Oly fold

Ramachandran elected IOA chief; IOC observers satisfied with polls

Decks cleared for India's return to Oly fold

India can hope to return to the Olympic family as early as the closing ceremony of the ongoing Winter Games at Sochi after the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) conducted its long-awaited elections without further glitches on Sunday.

The overturning of suspension will allow the Indian athletes at Sochi to march under the national flag during the closing ceremony on February 23. The IOC Executive Board will hold its meeting on the last day of the Games.

India’s suspension, since December 4, 2012, forced three Indian athletes at the Winter Games -- luger Shiva Keshavan and alpine skiers Himanshu Thakur and Nadeem Iqbal -- to participate as independent competitors under the Olympic flag.

The IOA cleared bottlenecks for a successful comeback by holding its elections on Sunday. The elections officially announced N Ramachandran, brother of Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) chief N Srinivasan, as the unopposed president. The Kho-Kho Federation of India (KKFI) president Rajeev Mehta and All India Tennis Association (AITA) president Anil Khanna were the unopposed secretary-general and treasurer.

The three-member team of International Olympic Committee (IOC) observers, comprising Pere Miro and Jerome Poivey, and led by Robin Mitchell, said they would personally submit a “favourable report” on their return to Sochi on Monday.  The elections were preceded by a brief general body meeting where the constitution of the IOA was amended to bring more clarity to the charge-framed clause.

“The IOC is satisfied with the meeting and its outcome. We will deliver a favourable report to the IOC president (Thomas Bach) as soon as we return tomorrow,” said Poivey.

Mitchell, an IOC member from Fiji, added:  “The IOC executive board will meet before the Winter Games closing ceremony and take the necessary action on India’s suspension. India is very important to us."

The polls were conducted for only one of the eight posts of vice-presidents. Rowing Federation of India (RFI) president Rajlaxmi Singh Deo missed out. Janardhan Singh Gehlot, Birendra Prasad Baishya, R K Anand, Anurag Thakur, Akhilesh Das Gupta, G S Mandher, Tarlochan Singh, and Parminder Singh Dhindsa were elected the new vice-presidents.

 “We believe that IOC observer team is completely satisfied with the conduct and the fairness of the election," Ramachandran, who is also World Squash Federation (WSF) chief, said after the elections.

"The house has urged them to take their report back to the IOC executive board and try and make sure the athletes walk beneath the Indian tri-colour at the earliest. It is the athletes who are facing the real challenge and I will be looking to get bring in more funds for them.”

The elections were held for 27 posts. Later, two members Anandeshwar Pandey from Uttar Pradesh Olympic Association (elected as Joint Secretary) and Adhip Das from Odisha Olympic Association (elected as executive council member) resigned from the Executive Committee to keep a suitable ratio between the Olympic and non-Olympic sports.

The IOA Executive Board now comprises 25 members with 13 of them from Olympic sports federations. In total, there are 138 members (70 Olympic events, 68 non-Olympic events).

The All India Football Federation (AIFF), meanwhile, was barred from participating in the election as it did not follow the required paperwork for changing its representative.

The two controversial figures, Abhay Singh Chautala and Lalit Bhanot, were present but did not vote.

The term of the new body will end in 2016.

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