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IOA looking to build National Games brand value, wants participation of top athletes

The IOA wants the country's top athletes to take part in the National Games so that a brand value can be created around the multi-sport event.

IOA looking to build National Games brand value, wants participation of top athletes

Saavaj - The mascot for the 2022 National Games (Source: SAI)



Updated: 12 March 2023 4:02 PM GMT

The Indian Olympic Association (IOA) wants the country's top athletes to take part in the National Games so that a brand value can be created around the multi-sport event to attract sponsorship money.

Hosting the multi-discipline games, a biennial event, has become a messy affair in recent times due to multiple delays, and only one National Games -- in Gujarat last year -- have been held since the 35th edition in Kerala in 2015.

"IOA's main property is the National Games. If top players do not participate in the National Games, what is the use of hosting them. If they (top athletes) take part, television revenue from the National Games will go up, people will watch players of calibre," IOA joint secretary and acting Chief Executive Officer Kalyan Chaubey told PTI on Sunday.

Goa has been confirmed during IOA's Annual General Meeting (AGM) on Saturday as host of the 37th edition in November.

IOA president P T Usha told PTI on Saturday that Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be requested to inaugurate the games in Goa in November. The state was to hold the event in 2016 but there were multiple delays, mainly due to infrastructure-related problems.

Since Goa was facing problems, the 36th edition was held in Gujarat in September-October last year, but Olympic medallists like Neeraj Chopra and PV Sindhu missed out either due to injuries or their scheduled training abroad.

"We want the NSFs (National Sports Federations) to send their top-class athletes to take part in National Games. Sometimes, the NSFs send their second-tier and third-tier athletes because they think their first tier will play only in the Asian Games and Olympics," Chaubey said.

"If the top athletes play in National Games, it will create value for the Games, other athletes can also learn from them. They will be inspired to perform better, that will promote the second tier of players to do better. So, we want to discuss this with the NSFs and we want their co-operation."

The IOA AGM on Saturday also passed the audited statements of accounts for 2019-20 and 2020-21 on the condition that the current dispensation under Usha will not be liable for wrongdoing, if any, by the earlier regime. Chaubey, however, said that the statements of accounts for 2019-20 and 2020-21 have not been sent for auditing again.

"It (account) was passed on conditional statement and notes that since it was the balance sheet of the previous regime, if there were any financial irregularities, the current body will not be liable for that. It is statutory that we have to pass it, otherwise we cannot move forward. If it is not done (passed), we cannot make the next balance sheet."

Asked if they would be sent for re-auditing, Chaubey said, "No, I think an internal auditor has audited (accounts of 2019-20 and 2020-21). It will not be re-audited, but we said we are not responsible (for any wrongdoing) as it was related to the earlier regime. Suppose, any query comes from the CAG (Comptroller and Auditor General) or any department (of the government) for penalty or investigation, the current body will co-operate in all possible ways, but we will not be liable."

Chaubey, who is also the All India Football Federation (AIFF) president, said that the top brass has told the NSFs and state Olympic Associations to stop dragging IOA into litigations relating to their factional feud.

"We have got status report of these legal cases from our legal team. There are 255 cases pending and we spent a huge amount of money in fighting these cases, which is not required. Most of the cases -- 99 per cent of them -- related to two lobbies of national or state sports bodies fighting each other. They made IOA a party to their case. IOA has nothing to do with these cases. We have spoken to all the General Body members... please don't make IOA a party in these cases and IOA will not entertain this."

He said the IOA will withdraw from these court cases and utilise the money -- reportedly about Rs 4 crore was spent on hiring lawyers by the earlier regime -- for the benefit of athletes.

"IOA can appear before the court and say it be expunged (allowed to withdraw) from the cases as IOA has nothing to do with these cases. Let us not fight in court and waste money for nothing. We should utilise the money for the betterment of the athletes."

The IOA AGM has also approved "in principle" to provide health insurance cover to former sportspersons who have won medals for the country. It will also provide support to the youngsters who are future medal prospects.

"We are yet to come up with the number of former sportspersons, the benchmark and parameters. We will do that, only the in-principle approval has been done by the AGM," he said.

"But any player who has participated in the Olympics, has won medals in the Asian Games or Commonwealth Games and today they are having financial constraints and nobody is there to look after them, we will provide health insurance to them. There are also players who can be future PV Sindhus or Neeraj Chopras but they require support and IOA will support them as and when required financially or with health insurance. We will come up with certain parameters for this also."

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