‘Sport has become the fiefdom of politicians’

Ashwini Nachappa...calling a spade a spade.-K. RAGESH

Ashwini Nachappa is confident that if more athletes like her become administrators, there would be a drastic improvement in the way sport is run in India, writes P. K. Ajith Kumar.

Ashwini Nachappa believes in running the talk, not just talking the talk.

The former champion sprinter from Karnataka has been a bitter critic of the way sport is run in the country, but instead of just finding fault with the corrupt administrators, she chose to become an administrator herself. She is the president of the Bangalore Urban District Athletics Association. “This is my last year in office, but I am contesting the election for the State association,” Ashwini told Sportstar in Kozhikode recently.

“Many athletes and their parents have requested me to continue as the District president, but I myself made the rule that there could only be one term for the president. One of the main reasons why sport in this country is in such a bad shape is the refusal of our administrators to leave their posts. So we have people like Suresh Kalmadi, V. K. Malhotra, Lalit Bhanot and Anil Kanna running their respective associations for decades.”

Ashwini said it was only after a great struggle that she could get into the athletics federation in Bangalore. “You see there was not even an association for Bangalore District earlier; the State association did not want one, as they needed votes from the clubs in Bangalore,” she said. “We had to fight for the formation of a district association. And we have already been able to make a mark, organising major athletics events. Many parents have told me that it is for the first time that their children are treated well by organisers.”

The Olympian is confident that she would succeed in her bid to join the Karnataka State federation. “I would say my chances of getting elected are 60-40.”

Ashwini is confident that if more athletes like her become administrators, there would be a drastic improvement in the way sport is run in India. “But here politicians won’t allow sportspersons to join administration and they won’t even allow an honest politician to do his job. Look at how they are opposing Union Sports Minister Ajay Maken’s Sports Bill, which proposes so many positive changes, such as limiting the tenure of administrators. It is great to have a Minister like Maken; he is probably our best ever Sports Minister.”

Ashwini pointed out that it is only in India that sport has become the fiefdom of politicians. “The chairman of the London Olympics is Sebastian Coe and Michel Platini is the president of UEFA. But the chairman of the New Delhi Commonwealth Games was Kalmadi and look how corrupt the whole event became. It was great to see that he was jailed for his activities. And I congratulate the Indian media on doing a great job of exposing corruption in the organisation of the Commonwealth Games. The Clean Sports India organisation, of which I am a founding member, too, had contributed towards bringing to light the various corruption issues of the Commonwealth Games.”

Ashwini said the controversy following the selection of the Indian tennis doubles teams for the Olympics is another example of poor administration. “The mess was a creation of the All India Tennis Association (AITA). I believe both Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi did not acquit themselves well in the great drama — they should have shown more maturity — but the AITA has to take the blame for not talking to Paes and Bhupathi before selecting the team. If a certain player was unwilling to play with another player, then you don’t send a team for the Olympics. Simple.”