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Games chief under pressure

India’s long-serving Olympic chief Suresh Kalmadi has reportedly been given a government deadline to quit, prompting criticism exactly five months before the country hosts the Commonwealth Games.
The sports ministry ruled that heads of the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) and national sports federations cannot remain in their posts for more than 12 years or beyond the age of 70. Kalmadi, the chief organiser of the October 3-14 Commonwealth Games in New Delhi, has served as the IOA president for 14 years and turned 66 last Saturday.

But the ministry has allowed Kalmadi and other sports chiefs to complete their current tenures, ensuring there is no break in preparations for the Commonwealth Games.

Kalmadi, whose current term ends in 2012, declined to comment on the sports ministry’s diktat, but other officials slammed the move.

ÔÇ£It is a ridiculous decision,ÔÇØ said opposition lawmaker Vijay Kumar Malhotra, who has headed the country’s archery federation for 31 years. It makes no sense. People have served in parliament for 30 years, many of our ministers are above 70, so why this rule only for sports officials?ÔÇØ
Sports Minister Manohar Singh Gill, a former chief election commissioner, defended the decision to limit sports chiefs’ tenures.

ÔÇ£This order will serve the best interest of sportspersons of the country and it will give an impetus to transparent and professional management of Indian sports in the new century,ÔÇØ Gill said in a statement.

Former stars, like athlete Milkha Singh, welcomed the regulations.

ÔÇ£It is a step in the right direction, it should have happened much earlier,ÔÇØ said Singh. ÔÇ£It will lead to better people joining the federations and that can only be good for sports.ÔÇØ

Politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen have often been accused of turning sports federations into their personal fiefdoms, holding on to their posts for years to remain in the spotlight.

Former sports minister Sukhdev Dhindsa has headed the cycling federation for 14 years; bureaucrat V.K. Verma has run the badminton association for 12 years and businessman B.S. Adityan has been volleyball chief for 12 years.

The Board of Control for Cricket in India, the richest sports body in the country, has a fixed tenure of three years for its president. The present incumbent Shashank Manohar is a lawyer.