The Indian Olympic Association finally has its Athletes Commission, which consists of twelve members. Ten of these members were supposed to have been elected from the lot of 42 nominations. The remaining two will comprise former Olympic gold medallist Abhinav Bindra and former hockey captain Sardar Singh. They will act as ex-officio members of the Commission, as the two are part of the Indian Olympic Association and the Olympic Council of Asia commission, respectively.
Elected Members of the Commission
The ten members that have been chosen by default to form the athletes commission include: PV Sindhu, Gagan Narang, Mirabai Chanu Saikhom, Om Prakash, Shiva Keshavan, Bajrang Lal, Achanta Sharath Kamal (who is to be awarded the Khel Ratna on November 30, 2022), Mary Kom, Bhavani Devi and Rani.
Withdrawal of athletes from the elections
Although the commission seems to comprise eminent sports personalities who will represent the interests of the larger community of athletes, the withdrawal of a significant number of athletes has caused concern. The manner in which the elections were conducted and the extension of time for withdrawal from elections are some of the few questionable features of these elections.
Tribune India reported that Umesh Sinha initially extended the deadline for the withdrawal from 8:30 AM to 10:30 AM and then finally pushed it to 12:00 PM on November 13. Sinha reasoned that athletes and federations required time more time to file their withdrawals as many of them were travelling abroad. It was also stated that the athletes felt they could vote remotely, which was not the case. Sinha mentioned:
“There was no confusion as it was clarified that the election was to be held by physical mode and the notification was sent well in advance. There was always the possibility of a glitch as it was a very tight schedule.“
Rahul Mehra questioned the legitimacy of these withdrawals on his Twitter account. He remarked:
“Has one ever witnessed such large scale withdrawal of nominations in an election? Did all these athletes withdraw out of their own free will, or were they forced to withdraw by someone powerful? Does this qualify to be free & fair election or selection by those pulling strings?“
As of now, we still need answers to these questions. However, the manner in which athletes have withdrawn from these elections raises an eyebrow or two.
What’s next for the athletes commission?
In terms of the next step for the athletes commission, the body will pick its chairman and vice-chairman, who will be voting members at the IOA executive council. The commission will also be required to choose two other members who will sit at the IOA’s general assembly as voting members.
The next step is electing eight sportspersons of outstanding merit (SOM). The applications for the SOM close on November 15 at 4:00 PM. These eight members of the SOM, along with the chairman and vice chairman of the athletes commission, will be part of the electoral college IOA elections to be held on December 10.
Until then, the question dangles as to whether the first election under the new constitution was genuinely fair.