The Indian Olympic Association came perilously close to getting expelled from the International Olympic Committee (IOC). In this brinkmanship, the athletes were the biggest losers as the fight for the control of the country’s top sports body heated up…
For Indian sport, 2013 was a year of controversies and low-key performances, the country’s image globally taking a beating with the suspension of the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) by the apex body of world sport. It could have been worse as the IOA came perilously close to getting expelled from the International Olympic Committee (IOC). In this brinkmanship, the athletes were the biggest losers as the fight for the control of the country’s top sports body heated up. In the internecine war, Lalit Bhanot, who spent 11 months in custody on corruption charges linked to the 2010 Commonwealth Games before being released on bail, and another tainted politician, Abhay Singh Chautala, were elected IOA secretary general and president unopposed. The IOC took exception to this and suspended the IOA for its “failure to comply with the Olympic Charter and its statures, failure to inform the IOC in a timely matter, and as a protective measure against Government interference in the IOA’s election process”.
The IOA eventually gave in earlier last month when the two pulled out. It also amended its constitution as directed by the IOC, barring the charge-sheeted from contesting the elections fixed for Feb 9. Again, the off-circuit machinations conspired in India missing the 2014 Formula One calendar after three successful outings at the Buddh International Circuit. Though organisers Jaypee Group are confident of seeing out the five-year F1 contract from 2015, they would welcome Government support needed to make things easier in organising the event for all concerned. F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone has made it clear that India needs to relook its tax and bureaucratic structure if it wants to hold the race in the longer run. This year’s Indian Grand Prix was the most action-packed of the three editions, culminating with Sebastian Vettel winning his fourth world title at the age of 26.
For Indian football, it was a mixed year. India’s season started with a defeat by Palestine in an international friendly in February. They even failed to qualify for the 2014 AFC Challenge Cup. India, however, moved 24 places, jumping to 143rd position in the FIFA rankings in March. From there on it was a downhill curve for the national team. It lost to Tajikistan in an international friendly and produced one of its worst performances in the SAFF Championship, going down 0-2 to Afghanistan in the final.
The national team at least managed to end the year on a high, avenging the SAFF defeat against Nepal in the league stage with a 2-0 win in an international friendly in November. On the domestic front, the highly touted Indian Super League faced another setback as the tournament was postponed for the second time. There was some good news, though, as Indian football received its biggest boost with FIFA awarding the U-17 World Cup to the country. India also made an ambitious bid to bring the FIFA’s Club World Cup competition to its shores.
Indian badminton had a mixed year. If Saina Nehwal struggled to maintain her form and World ranking, her younger state-mate Sindhu hit the headlines by becoming the country’s first woman to win a singles medal – a bronze – at the World Championships in August. The teenager’s rise has made up for the relatively poor show by Saina, who could not replicate her fantastic 2012 performance when she also won an Olympic medal. This year though the Hyderabadi has failed to win even a single title.In contrast, Sindhu has won two Grand Prix Gold titles — Malaysia Open (May) and the Macau Open (December) — and was also conferred the Arjuna Award. It has overall been a positive year for Indian male shuttlers too. As many as eight players were listed among the top-50, with Kidambi Srikanth surprising everyone by claiming the Thailand Open Grand Prix Gold in June.
Leander Paes continues to sparkle and he became the oldest man to win a Grand Slam title when he and his Czech partner won the the men’s doubles crown at the US Open.
In hockey, India did well to qualify for the hockey World Cup. However, the junior team after impressing in the Sultan Johor Cup failed to carry forward their form and finished ninth in the hockey World Cup at home. Hockey fans, however, had lots to cheer about. The inaugural Hockey India League (HIL) brought the sport back into the limelight and by all accounts a big success.
It was a remarkable year for wrestling. After facing the ignominy of being dropped from the Olympic programme in February, a stunning turnaround saw the sport voted back for both the 2020 – which is to be hosted by Tokyo – and the 2024 Summer Olympics. Chess buffs had a disappointment when Grandmaster Viswanathan Anand relinquished his World title, losing to Norway’s Magnus Carlsen, in Chennai.