The Indian State fancies itself to be dominant and overactive. It is this self-image that prompts it to spread its tentacles into all areas of public life. The Indian State’s attempts to regulate sports have had very unfortunate consequences for the athletes of the country. For no fault of theirs, these athletes will not be able to take part in the Olympic Games under the Indian flag; they can compete as individuals under the Olympic flag. One implication of this is that the medals these athletes win will not be included in India’s medal tally. That this is a big blow to Indian sports goes without saying. India’s image has also taken a battering. The reasons for this are significant. The International Olympic Committee suspended India because the elections to the Indian Olympic Association will not be held according to the national body’s constitution but according to the “sports code’’ laid down by the Indian government. The IOC mandates that elections to all national bodies affiliated to the IOC should be according to the national bodies’ own constitutions. In other words, the IOC has objected to the government’s unwarranted interference by way of a “sports code’’ in the affairs of the IOA.
The IOC’s objections are based on certain principles. It is not concerned about either the merits of or the need for a “sports code’’. It does not want the government to have a say in the running of the IOA. This means that the IOC wants affiliated national bodies to be run as autonomous institutions free from the control of the government and politicians. Unfortunately, such a principle is completely out of tune with the attitudes of the Indian State and of Indian politicians. The government wants to have a say in the running of sports bodies and politicians view membership of sports bodies as valuable feathers in the caps. Outside of the former Soviet Bloc and a handful of other countries, India must be the only major country where the government tries to control and regulate sports bodies. One alarming fallout of this is the fact that sports bodies are often headed by men who are not remotely connected to any form of sport. An example of this is manifest in the running of the Board of Control for Cricket in India, the country’s most lucrative sports organization. The suspension imposed by the IOC is a warning. The State needs to pull back its frontiers: the days of socialism belong to the past.