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'Happy that Indian sportspersons will contest under tricolour'

Posted on Feb 11 2014 | IANS

New Delhi, Feb 11 : Sports Minister Jitendra Singh Tuesday congratulated the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) for getting back into the Olympic fold after a 14-month IOC ban and expressed his happiness that the country's sportspersons will once again be able to contest under the tricolour.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) Executive Board (EB) lifted its 14-month ban on India at an ad-hoc meeting in Sochi Tuesday after the IOA amended its constitution and held "free and fair elections" two days ago, keeping tainted officials out of its election process.

"This is a great day for the country. As an Indian, I am thrilled and very, very happy. The Government of India congratulates the IOA, IOC, sportspersons and the people of the country who were involved in getting India back into the Olympic Movement. I am very happy that now our sportspersons will be able to contest under the Indian flag," Jitendra Singh told media at the Sports Authority of India (SAI) headquarters here.

"It's been a long journey of over a year when sportspersons and sports lovers have raised their concerns, the Government of India has raised its voice at Lausanne, and through other forums, for paving a way to get India back into the Olympic Movement," said the minister, who had led a government delegation to IOC headquarters in Lausanne last year.

The IOA was suspended in December 2012 after it failed to comply with the Olympic Charter and its statutes, relating specifically to good governance, during its controversial election process. As a consequence, the IOA was no longer entitled to exercise any activity or right, including financial support, conferred by the IOC.

"In the last 14 months of exile, a major step has been taken to clean up sports. The sports ministry had first raised this with the IOC that the IOA constitution needs amendment and people who are charge-framed should not be allowed to contest in elections. We have had many discussions with all the stakeholders and finally I am thankful that the IOA amended its constitution and this historic step has been taken that charge-framed people will not be able to contest polls," said the sports minister.

In the fresh IOA elections held here Sunday, World Squash Federation head N. Ramachandran, Kho Kho Federation of India president Rajeev Mehta and All India Tennis Association president Anil Khanna were elected unopposed as the president, secretary general and treasurer, respectively.

"They have been elected through a democratic process. That is a major step forward and our sportsmen had to pay for that also... for example at Sochi. But with India coming back, if we win medals, the national anthem will be played. We had to pay a price but at least the clean up has started."

Jitendra Singh also added that most of the National Sports Federations (NSFs), apart from the Archery Association of India (AAI) and the Indian Boxing Federation (IBF), have complied with the sports code.

"A majority of the NSFs have adopted the sports code apart from the archery and the boxing association. The government is committed to bringing in transparency and good governance in the field of sports."

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