BERLIN (Reuters) - Elections for the presidency of the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) later this month must be fair and transparent to allow the world’s second most populous nation to tap its sports potential, the IOC said on Thursday.
The run-up to the IOA vote has been mired in controversy with beleaguered president Suresh Kalmadi bowing to pressure in October and not seeking re-election.
“Top priority for the IOC is integrity,” International Olympic Committee (IOC) Vice President Thomas Bach told Reuters when asked what his organisation expected from the November 25 vote in New Delhi.
“Therefore a fair and transparent campaign for the presidency of the IOA is essential,” said Bach.
Kalmadi, who was released from prison on bail in January after nine months, had been arrested in April 2011 on charges of inflating tenders worth millions of dollars for equipment used at the 2010 New Delhi Commonwealth Games which he was heading.
The $6-billion Commonwealth Games were billed as India’s answer to the 2008 Beijing Olympics but descended into rows over leaking stadiums, filthy athletes’ rooms and corruption scandals.
“Only with the leadership of integrity can the IOA play the deserved important role in world sports and exploit the huge potential of sports in India,” said Bach, who is seen as a possible candidate for the IOC presidency next year.
The nation of 1.2 billion people saw its athletes return from the year’s London Olympics with two silver and four bronze medals, the country’s biggest Olympic haul and equal to the collective tally of India’s previous seven campaigns.
“Six medals was a good harvest. However, a nation of 1.2 billion should do better,” Indian President Pranab Mukherjee said as he hosted the medal winners in August, highlighting the country’s growing appetite for sporting success.
The frontrunners for the top job at the IOA are Indian Amateur Boxing Federation’s (IABF) Abhay Chautala and IOA secretary general Randhir Singh.
Singh, an IOC member since 2001, has been untarnished by the Commonwealth Games fallout while Chautala is a politician and his brother Ajay heads the Table Tennis Federation of India.
Additional reporting by Amlan Chakraborty in New Delhi; Editing by Alison Wildey