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IOA’s back in the IOC fold after 14 months

New Delhi: India’s 14-month exile from the Olympic movement ended on Tuesday when the International Olympic Committee (IOC) decided to lift the ban on Indian Olympic Association (IOA) that was imposed in December 2012.

“The IOC Executive Board (EB) reinstated the National Olympic Committee (NOC) of India, the IOA, during an ad-hoc meeting in Sochi today,” the IOC said in a statement.

“The EB took this decision following a report about the IOA’s General Assembly and elections for a new Board, which were successfully held on February 9, 2014 and observed by an IOC delegation headed by IOC member Robin Mitchell,” it added.

However, this decision will not necessarily solve all the problems that Indian sport has been facing in the Olympic arena. Three other sports federations — boxing, fencing and taekwondo — are presently under suspension from their respective world bodies. India’s seclusion in the international circuit would only end when all these federations return to the fold.

The IOC decision, which was announced by its spokesperson Mark Adams, came two days after the IOA conducted its much- delayed elections under the new constitution that was drafted as per the directives of the parent body.

The IOC’s biggest triumph was the inclusion of the clause of ethics and good governance in the constitution that prevented all the tainted and charge-framed officials from contesting the elections.

It was a bitter pill to swallow for sports administrators like Suresh Kalmadi, Abhay Singh Chautala and Lalit Bhanot as they had to vacate the important posts to relatively new entrants like Narayanswamy Ramachandran and Rajiv Mehta.

“This is a huge development,” said Ramachandran, the newly-elected president. “At the start of the Winter Games in Sochi, our athletes had to compete under the Olympic flag because of the ban. Now, you will see the tricolour flying proudly,” he added.

Ramachandran said the lifting of ban would also help to reduce some financial constraints. “Grants from IOC and the government were stopped because of the ban. Those will be restored now,” said the 67-year-old president.

The IOC’s action also made it clear that it was keen to take India back in the fray as quickly as possible. Stressing the fact that it was for the first time that a ban was lifted from a national Olympic committee during an Olympic Games, IOC said: “The EB decision means they can now compete for the National Olympic Committee of India and will walk under their national flag at the closing ceremony on February 23.

“To symbolically mark the lifting of the suspension and in recognition of the three Indian athletes competing in Sochi, the Indian flag will be raised at the Olympic Village,” it added.

The IOA was put under suspension when the Indian apex body led by Chautala went ahead with its polls despite repeated reminders from the IOC for not acting against the Olympic Charter.