Suresh Kalmadi loses AAA re-election, Al-Hamad new president

Pune: Scam-tainted Suresh Kalmadi was on Monday ousted as the President of the Asian Athletics Association after he lost his re-election bid to Qatar's powerful rival Dahlan Jumaan Al-Hamad in a tight contest, bringing an end to the veteran administrator's 13-year reign at the helm.

Kalmadi, who was jailed and later released on bail for his alleged role in the Commonwealth Games scam, lost 18-20 in the presidential elections held on the second and final day of the AAA Congress at a five-star hotel.

All the 45 member countries of the AAA voted through secret ballot in the presence of international parent body IAAF chief Lamine Diack. There were seven invalid votes. Each country has one vote in the election.

Kalmadi, a former Indian Olympic Association President, will also lose his membership of the IAAF Council which he has been holding since 2001 as he is no longer an area representative from the continental body.

Monday’s defeat also marked the end of 69-year-old Congress MP's career as a sports administrator as he has already quit from any such post in the country last year after he was charge-sheeted and jailed for his alleged role in the CWG scandal.

The electoral reverse has now led to speculation on whether he would now announce retirement from sports administration since he no longer has any posts.

He will though automatically become a life president of the AAA, an honorary post given to all past presidents, and can attend the Congress of the continental body without any voting rights.

Qatar Athletics Federation President Al Hamad, who is also the incumbent senior vice-president of the AAA as well as the IAAF, will hold office for just two years instead of four.

An AAA source said that the term of its president was curtailed so that it runs concurrently with that of the IAAF chief and it will revert to four years from 2015 onwards.

"Al Hamaad will be president for only two years as AAA is changing cycle so that it is in sync with IAAF from 2015," the official said.

Incumbent IAAF chief Lamine Diack's term runs from 2011 to 2015.

Kalmadi's loss in the election is a big disappointment for him considering that the Congress of the AAA was being held at his home town, which he is representing in the Parliament, and Asian Championships begin here from July 3.

It's a sort of history repeating itself after 13 years as Kalmadi had ousted the then incumbent Bob Hassan of Indonesia in a tight presidential election in Jakarta in 2000.

Since then Kalmadi had returned as president unopposed thrice.

Understandably, the Kalmadi camp was disappointed and said that the invalid votes might have tilted the balance in favour of Al Hamad.

Some reports though have mentioned the uneasiness of his continuing as AAA chief due to his alleged role in the CWG scandal.

"We knew that it would be a tough fight but we were expecting Kalmadi to win. The invalid votes could have tilted the balance in favour of Al Hamad," an Athletics Federation of India source told PTI.

The AFI had forwarded Kalmadi's name for the president's post as they did not want to lose a seat in the AAA.

Al Hamad, who was banking on the 12 votes from the Arab Block, had planned for the election meticulously. He reached Pune early and held separate talks with officials of other countries.

While announcing his candidature in May, Al Hamad had said if elected he would bring more sponsorship money while also stating that the sport in the continent lacks proper marketing.

"There are a lot of opportunities in Asia which we still do not utilise. I see the opportunity is there, but we are not trying to bring that opportunity through constructive planning. We lack in marketing side," Al Hamad had said.

"The IAAF has many Asian sponsors. But AAA is not sponsored by anybody. And why? Because we are not prepared. We don't have that final product to present. That's why we have to have it.

"And I believe that business people don't come to you unless you are really prepared and you have the right product for them. So we need to have the right product for them, the right programme, the right staff, and then businesses come."

The Kalmadi camp said he had done a lot for the growth of athletics in the last 13 years by increasing the number of competition.

"Before 2000, there were just two competitions -- Asian Junior and Asian Senior Championships. Now we have so many other competitions -- Asian Grand Prix Series, Asian All Star, Asian Marathon, Asian Walk Championships. So he has done a lot for Asian Athletics," an official from the Kalmadi camp had said.