New Delhi: The decks were cleared today for India's return to the Olympic fold after a 14-month suspension with Indian Olympic Association conducting its polls with N Ramachandran being elected as the president.
The election of 65-year-old Ramachandran, chief of World Squash Federation and younger brother of BCCI boss N Srinivasan, as IOA president was a mere formality as he was the lone candidate in the fray for the top post.
Kho-Kho Federation of India President Rajeev Mehta and All India Tennis Association (AITA) chief Anil Khanna were also elected unopposed as Secretary General and Treasurer respectively in the polls which marked the exit of corruption-tainted Abhay Singh Chautala and Lalit Bhanot from
Voting was done only for eight vice-presidents as there were nine candidates in the fray. One senior vice-president, six joint secretaries and nine executive council members were also elected unopposed. All the office-bearers of the IOA will have a term till 2016, the Olympic year.
The three observers from International Olympic Committee said they would submit a "favourable" report to IOC president Thomas Bach and expressed hope that India's suspension would be revoked "sooner than later",
Robin Mitchell, IOC member from Fiji and the seniormost among the three, even hinted that India's suspension could be revoked before the end of the ongoing Sochi Winter Olympics so that the three Indians taking part in the Games can hold the tri-colour in the closing ceremony on 23 February.
"We are very happy at the way the proceedings have happened today. We are reaching Sochi tomorrow and will submit our report to IOC President and it is upto him when to call the Executive Board meeting to decide on India's return. We hope it will happen sooner than later," Mitchell said.
Asked about any time frame, he said, "The IOC Executive Board is meeting before the closing ceremony of Sochi Winter Olympics and hopefully the EB will decide to revoke India's suspension in that meeting. We want Indian athletes to take part in the closing ceremony with the national flag."
Shiva Keshavan, Himanshu Thakur and Nadeem Iqbal took part in the opening ceremony of Sochi Olympic Games on Friday under the IOC flag.
IOC's NOC Relations Director Pere Miro said the three observers "were satisfied with the IOA elections and they would submit a favourable report to the IOC President".
Jerome Poivey, IOC's head of institutional relations, event went to state that the amended IOA constitution was one of the best in the world and it should be implemented fully.
"The amended IOA Constitution is one of the most advanced in the world and we fully appreciate the IOA for this. We hope that this constitution is implemented fully," he said.
The polls, which were conducted by a three-member election commission of the IOA, was preceded by a Special GBM which made an amendment in the constitution under the diktat of IOC so as to make it clear that charge-framed persons would have to cease to be members of IOA besides being barred from contesting elections.
As soon as the amendment was passed by the GBM, Chautala and Bhanot who were elected IOA president and secretary general on 5 December, 2012, a day after IOC suspended India, ceased to be members of the IOA.
"Once the GBM ratifies the amendment, they automatically cease to be IOA members," a top official said.
Chautala and Bhanot, who were included in the electoral college as representatives from Athletics Federation of India and Delhi Olympic Association, did not vote today. 138 members voted today out of which 70 were from among Olympic sports.
After the elections, two members -- Anandeshwar Pandey (elected joint secretary) and Adhip Das (elected executive council members) -- resigned so that there was a majority of members from Olympic sports over non-Olympic sports in the IOA Executive Committee.
The total strength of IOA at of now stands at 25 with 13 from Olympic sports.
Ramachandran, who served as treasurer from 2008-12 and in the suspended IOA under Chautala, said his immediate job was to ensure India's returns to Olympic fold as soon as possible.
"My immediate job is ensure that India returns to Olympic fold and our athletes take part in international events under the national flag," he said at the press conference.
Ramachandran refused to comment when asked about cases reportedly pending in High Court against him.
Ramchandran said he and his team will hold office till 2016 unless the IOC extends the term for another year.
"Under rules, the term is from Olympic year to Olympic year. One year has gone and so it will be till 2016. But if the IOC wishes, our term can be extended by a year," he said.
He said funds were required for Indian athletes to shine in international events and Olympics and he would work for corporate funding in Olympic sports.
"We want to work for the benefit of athletes. They should be the beneficiaries. The athletes need funding to win medals in Asian Games, Commonwealth Games and Olympics. We have to provide the funds. It may come from the government or from the corporates. I would try to find funding from corporate houses," he said.
Asked if he was sad at what had happened in the IOA in the last 14 months, he said, "I don't look back at the past. I want to look at present and future. That's what I can do."
Asked what he felt on the fact that the two most powerful posts in Indian sports are now being held by two brothers as his brother N Srinivasan heads the BCCI, Ramachandran said, "I am with the IOA. I am the head of IOA and I have nothing to do with cricket."
Today's elections were held without three representatives each from Indian Boxing Federation, Taekwondo Federation of India and Fencing Association of India who were barred by the IOC from casting votes on the ground that these three NSFs have been suspended by their international federations.
The IOA was left with no option but to amend its constitution and hold elections as per IOC's diktat after an ultimatum that the world body would de-recognise India if "charge-framed" persons are not barred from contesting polls.
De-recognition would mean that India cannot be a part of the Olympic Movement and the country's sportspersons would not be allowed to take part in any international event.
It all started 14 months ago when on 4 December, 2012, the IOC suspended the IOA for adhering to the government's Sports Code and for allowing tainted persons to take part in the election process. In an act of defiance, IOA went ahead with the polls next day. The world body refused to recognise Chautala and his team of office bearers.