Will try to ensure IOA polls before Winter Olympics: Jitendra

PTI| Updated: Dec 13, 2013, 20:20 PM IST

New Delhi: Sports Minister Jitendra Singh friday said he would try to convince the IOA to hold its much-awaited elections before the scheduled date of February 9 to ensure that the Indian athletes are able to compete under the national flag during the Sochi Winter Olympics, starting February 7.

India`s return to the Olympic fold would be done officially after the IOA holds its elections.

The Indian Olympic Association, which has bowed to the IOC`s diktat of barring tainted officials from its polls, has set aside February 9 for its election despite governing body making it clear that the Indian athletes would have to compete under the Olympic flag in Sochi if the polls are not held before the event.

"We are trying that elections are held by the last week of January or February 2 or 3 so that Indian athletes can compete under the national flag in the Winter Games," Jitendra told reporters on the sidelines of the launch of Olympic bronze-medallist boxer M C Mary Kom`s autobiography `Unbreakable` here.

The Minister, who personally led an Indian delegation to the IOC headquarters in Lausanne to help resolve the matter some months back, said he was glad that a solution was finally in sight to the impasse, which is now one year old.

"Any person with a criminal background cannot contest IOA elections which is a great thing. Earlier they could contest because of the escape route provided by the ethics committee but that door is shut now," he said.

"The IOA ethics commission cannot decide on that (corruption charges). Only a court can do that. This is a great thing, India has paid a price for this but something really good has happened for Indian sports," Jitendra added.

On being asked about the much-delayed proposed Sports Bill would be presented before the Parliament in the ongoing winter session, Singh sought to avoid any direct answers.

"We have taken feedback from sportspersons and all stakeholders in sports. More or less, it is finalised. I am very hopeful that it will be presented in this session," he said.

The Minister took the opportunity to congratulate Mary Kom on her achievements, which include five world titles apart from the Olympic medal that she won in London last year.

"You come from a family which had to work to sustain itself. I don`t think there was a system in place to spot your talent. Our Ministry is working to ensure that talent is identified. You have already taken the initiative of creating more Marys with your academy. I wish you all the best," said Singh while launching the book.