Govt wants SAG in 2014, IOA opposes

New Delhi: The Sports Ministry has asked Indian Olympic Association to defer the South Asian Games to second half of 2014 but IOA acting president V K Malhotra today reacted strongly saying postponing the event at this stage will be a "standing shame" for the country.

IOA, which is to host these Games by virtue of rotation, had decided to conduct the event in the Capital in January 2013 and had also sought Government`s approval for it.

However in a surprise move, the Sports Ministry has written a letter to IOA, asking it to defer the Games to 2014. "There are number of factors which preclude the possibility of hosting the Games before 2nd Half of 2014. It would not be possible to hold the Games during 2012 as it is the year of Olympic Games," the letter said.

"Thereafter, in 2013, due to elections to the Delhi Assembly, the model code of conduct would come into force and hence there may be administrative difficulties in holding the Games in 2013 in Delhi.

"Incidentally the year 2014 also happens to be the year of general elections to the Lok Sabha. As such India would be in a position to hold the Games only after the elections are held i.e second half of 2014," the letter added.

However, IOA today strongly reacted to the government suggestions with Malhotra saying that the reasons given by the sports ministry were "laughable". "The reason put forth by the Sports ministry to defer the Games for another year and half are laughable," Malhotra said in a statement.

"This is part of the SAG charter that every member country has to conduct the Games as per rotation. IOA has scheduled the Games for January/February 2013 while the Assembly Elections are due in September/October, so there is no question of the violation of Model Code of Conduct."

Malhotra recalled it was the Government which had put pressure on the IOA to host these Games and since 2010 the sports ministry officials had several meeting with IOA in these regard.

He said the Delhi Government was very keen to hold the Games but now this letter from the Sports Ministry has created confusion and uncertainty. "I had written to the Prime Minister after he returned from SAAARC meeting in Maldives late last year about these Games," he said, adding that "the Prime minister`s office in response had suggested that IOA should hold meeting with the Delhi Government and Sports Ministry regarding the conduct of the Games and then come back to it."

"Because deferring the Games till 2014 is neither feasible nor possible, I urge the Delhi government to take up this matter with the Union Government," he said.

Malhotra said holding the Games won`t cost much and any further delay will be a standing shame for the country. "The Games can be held at minimal cost. Bangladesh spent around Rs 80 crores and it should cost us much less because we don`t have to spend any thing on the stadia. There is huge infrastructure already in place in the Capital," he said.

"IOA has made it clear that for the conduct of SAG it will like the government to deal with financial aspect of it. We want government agencies to handle the total expenditure of the Games. TV rights, sponsorships, and advertisements can generate surplus revenue. Delhi government can take charge of opening and closing ceremonies. IOA will also like some senior union minister to be chairman of the Organising Committee. Hosting of SAG is national commitment. India is the founding father of SAARC movement and to abdicate the responsibility of hosting the games will be a standing shame," Malhotra added.

He also said that this matter will be discussed in the General Body Meeting of IOA this month. "We will explore all avenues and try to hold the Games here but will also keep our options open. We will also discuss alternative venues in the country," Malhotra said. Malhotra also said before taking any final decision about the venue, IOA will also consult the NOCs of the SAG.