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3

I don't really follow the Olympics, but it is difficult to miss stories when they are so shocking. The overwhelming perception of the Indian contingent all through the Olympics Games saga has been one of complete disinterest in sports performance. Here are some of the highlights off the top of my head.

Three out of four brand ambassadors for India had nothing to do with Olympic sports

Other than Abhinav Bindra (who, as India's only Olympics gold medalist till then couldn't really be avoided) India's brand ambassadors for the Olympics had absolutely nothing to do with Olympics sport. They are Salman Khan, Sachin Tendulkar and A R Rahman - for the record. They were apparently chosen to popularize Olympics among Indians. Though it is anyone's guess why any of the three would generate an interest in sports that they themselves didn't have any achievements in. If anything, it seemed like India was saying we don't have anyone notable in all these sports and if we are to sell enough ad spots for our pet media to make good profits, we'd better get selling faces on the screen.

Training funds diverted to election bound Assam

More than 100 crores from funds for training Olympics athletes were diverted toward hosting the SAF games in Assam as per the wish of BJP's CM candidate for Assam. The election was won, indeed, but the Olympics seems lost. The only medals so far appear to be from Sakshi Malik and PV Sindhu - both established players and have long term dedicated coaches and whose training wouldn't be impacted as badly by whims in government spending. Contestants from less privileged backgrounds who had to struggle to reach the Olympics on the basis of sheer talent, notably didn't make it through. Dipa Karmakar lost by a fraction of a second. Could Lalita Babar (Indian Railways) or Dattu Bhokanal (Army), for example have a stronger showing if there had been more attention and spending toward getting them to peak performance?

Skewed priorities on who got sent to Rio

While we had all kinds of VIPs from Nita Ambani (how is she at all relevant to sport?) to random politicians and relatives parading as doctors gone to Rio in style and comfort, while the athletes who were supposed to deliver the results flew economy, had their supporting staff refused, etc. For example, it is only when Dipa Karmakar showed promise of winning a medal that her previously rejected physiotherapist was flown in to Rio in a hurry. It isn't like other athletes got their physiotherapists there either. Saina Nehwal, for example, sustained an injury to her knee in the run up to the Olympics. She had been injured 10 days before her match and as per her coach, had been given a dexamethasone injection after consulting IOC doctors at the clinic in the Olympic village on the day of the match, to bring down swelling and pain. It is unclear what other specialized treatment was available to her. Her injury worsened during her game and she had to bow out and be hospitalized on return to India. Would our contingent having adequate support staff have improved her prospects? It is anyone's guess.

Lack of sincerity among those inexplicable ones who went to Rio

Anil Vij, Haryana minister had gone to Rio for some obscure reason like observing sports with players from his state or some such. Once there, he didn't actually attend the events where players from Haryana competed. Sports Minister Vijay Goel brought embarrassment to India with his behavior. Whether it was endless selfies with exhausted contestants or angering Olympics officials with disregard for protocol when those accompanying him entered accredited areas without authority and got aggressive when confronted. If he had showed half the attention to his tweets wishing Indian players before their events, a lot of embarrassment would have been avoided as he merrily misspelled names, tweeted out images wishing sports people with his own photo featured prominently on them, used wrong photos or simply wished contestants the best heaping insult on injury after they had already contested (and not won). The radiologist son of the Vice President of the Indian Olympic Association is serving as the medical officer to our contingent. That is right. Our delegation to the freaking OLYMPICS doesn't merit a sports medicine expert, though there is no shortage of Page 3 paisawalas and bureaucrats and assorted opportunists.

Negligent preparations

Our boxing participants almost got disqualified because their vests did not have their country - India printed on them. The kits were replaced and there were no disqualifications and the coach dismissed it as a minor issue, but it seems rather stunning that our boxers arrived at the Olympics without our country's name on their vests and apparently no one realized that this would be a problem.

The Narsingh Yadav gamble

Narsingh Yadav had tested positive for methandienone on the 25th of June and 5th of July (this is a gap of 10 days). He claimed that there was a conspiracy against him and that his food/drink had been spiked. NADA (National Anti-Doping Agency of India) exonerated him, presumably believing his claims. As a result, he was representing India at the Olympics - and it isn't like we didn't have a choice. Our champion Sushil Kumar with two Olympic medals in the immediately preceding two Olympics (silver - 2012, London Olympics + bronze - 2008, Beijing Olympics), for example was a possibility. Perhaps it could be someone else. But the point was, whatever "evidence" NADA used to exonerate Narsingh Yadav in India, it didn't stand up to scrutiny when challenged by WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency). The CAS (Court of Arbitration for Sport) at the Olympic Games ruled against him.

The CAS Panel did not accept the argument of the athlete that he was the victim of sabotage and noted that there was no evidence that he bore no fault, nor that the anti-doping rule violation was not intentional.

As a result, Narsingh Yadav now has a 4 year ban from performing, and India doesn't have an entry where it could very likely have won a medal. A hard question that needs to be asked is how the NADA exonerated him, if there was no evidence and with a 10 day gap between his tests being positive; and whether the national interest is served in this manner.

And of course, there are many long term problems plaguing Indian sports (other than cricket). Lack of identification and training in any methodical manner being the top of the list. And it isn't like Modi sarkar didn't know what needed to be done. This is an excerpt from Modi's speech after the last Olympics explaining how India could easily pick up 5-10 Olympic medals, now sarcastically doing the rounds as his suggestion for 2016 Olympics.

2

A PIL has been filed by Anand Jondhale in the Mumbai High Court about irregularities in Sailing. Some of the stories are among those I exposed here. Others are ones I had been meaning to write. This quick post just places it all out for your convenience.

The PIL names:

  1. Union of India
  2. State of Maharashtra
  3. The Secretary of the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports
  4. President, The Yachting Association of India (YAI)
  5. Captain Homi Motivala
  6. Captain Arvind Raghuwanshi
  7.  Lt. Col Gautama Dutta
  8. Captain Monty Khanna
  9. Captain Rajesh Sarin
  10. The Commissioner of Customs
  11. Central Intelligence Unit
  12. The Chief Commissioner of Customs,Zone-I
  13. The Director of Income Tax (Intelligence)
  14. The Special Director,  Directorate of Enforcement
  15. The Ministry of Shipping Mercantile
  16. The Chief Surveyor and Marine Engineer
  17. The Secretary, Home Department
  18. Mr. Anil Ambani
  19. Mrs. Tina Ambani
  20. M/s. Reliance Transport & Travels Pvt. Ltd.
Quoting salient parts of the petition. You can download the original petition here: Sailgate - PIL filed in Mumbai High Court

This Petition is being moved for an exemplary action in relation to corruption by certain personnel of Armed forces in the Sports of Yachting, illegal commercial exploitation of boats/yachts for personal benefits without valid permissions and customs clearance which has resulted in huge misappropriation of taxpayers money spent by the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports for winning an Olympic Medal in the Sports of Yachting and the unchecked, unimpeded, unhindered, unrestricted movements of boats and yachts which has already caused a gigantic terror attack on the city of Mumbai on 26th November, 2008.

...

4.1 The Petitioner states that, the Government of India is spending crores of rupees through the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports to win an Olympic medal in the sport of yachting and this is done through Yachting Association of India (YAI) which is headed by none other than the Chief of Naval Staff. The Petitioner would like to bring the following facts to the notice and request for exemplary action in relation to corruption by certain personnel of the armed forces in the sport of yachting and illegal commercial exploitation of boats for personal benefits without valid permissions and customs clearance. The Petitioner states that, in June 2005, the Honorary Secretary General of the YAI had reported cases of misappropriation of Government funds by some serving / retired armed forces personnel. A xerox copy of report of the Honorary Secretary General of the YAI dated 03/06/2005 is annexed herewith and marked as Annexure “A” to this Petition.
The Petitioner states that, It was brought to the notice of the President YAI, that a few yachtspersons who had participated in overseas events, during 2004 - 2005, had allegedly submitted false bills and supporting documents and thus claimed excess funds from the Ministry of Youth Affairs & Sports, Government of India, through the YAI.

4.2. The Petitioner states that, accordingly, the Indian Navy conducted an enquiry to ascertain the facts and determine the total amount misappropriated, so that necessary action could be initiated to punish the guilty and the excess money claimed by submission of false bills by them could be refunded to the Ministry of Youth Affairs & Sports, Government of India. The Petitioner further states that, It was established that some of the yacht persons had indeed falsified bills, receipts and other supporting documents and claimed excess funds. A copy of the report dated 28/11/2005 submitted by Captain Rajesh Sarin to the Honorary Secretary General is annexed herewith and marked as Annexure “B” to this Petition.
The Petitioner states that, it can be noted that while the investigation / inquiry were conducted most of those who had submitted false accounts were serving with either the Indian Navy / Indian Army and once it was established that they were guilty of misappropriation of Government funds, no action was initiated to punish the guilty and for unknown reasons token sums were recovered and deposited with the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports, Government of India in late 2011. A copy of the YAI letter dated 22/11/2011 is annexed herewith and marked as Annexure “C” to this Petition.

4.3. The Petitioner further states that, those found guilty of embezzlement were quietly let off and Captain Homi Motivala, Captain Arvind Raghuwanshi and Lt Col Gautama Dutta resigned from the armed forces, without any action being taken against them. The Petitioner states that, it is pertinent to mention that when the enquiry was being conducted by Captain Rajesh Sarin, the then President of the YAI and Chief of the Naval Staff had appointed Captain Monty Khanna as the Secretary General of the YAI. It was during his tenure that the necessary actions on the guilty had to be initiated, however, he manipulated the system in such a manner that all those found guilty were permitted to get away. The same officer, who is now promoted to the rank of Rear Admiral, has once again been appointed as the Secretary General. This is in utter disrespect of the high standards of morality that should be exercised by the Indian Armed Forces and action needs to be forthwith taken on the guilty and the YAI Secretary.

4.4 The Petitioner further states that, some of the yachtspersons are operating bank accounts in foreign countries. It is pertinent to mention that no individual is permitted to open a bank account outside India without the approval of the Reserve Bank of India, however, despite knowing the rules no action was ever initiated against such officers by the administrators of the YAI. Several of the active defense personnel and participating in government funded sports events have been fraudulently claiming pension from the ministry of sports and youth affairs since 1998 despite being actively participating and claiming sports prize. The Petitioner states that, YAI had recommended Captain Homi Motivala for the cash award, for coaching sailors, who had won a Gold Medal at the World Championship. This bogus claim of coaching was refuted by some members of the YAI and when it was established that the claim had been irregularly made, Captain Motivala, was asked to donate Rs. 7.50 lakhs to the YAI and no further action was ever taken. In addition, Captain Motivala was recommended for award of the Dronacharya Award which was conferred by the Government of India in 2003. The Petitioner states that, it is pertinent to mention that when it was found that he was not eligible for the cash award or conferment of National honor, why no action was ever taken to revoke these awards and even today these officers get their monthly pension for cheating. A xerox copy an email dated 03/05/2004 from Commodore S. K. Mongia to Admiral Madhvendra Singh describing aforesaid illegal activities is annexed herewith and marked as Annexure “D” to this Petition.

4.5 The Petitioner states that, Property of the Indian Navy is being commercially utilized by a Private Limited Company which has been registered with the address of Indian Naval Waterman Ship Training Centre, Colaba, Mumbai. Commander R Mahesh,a serving Naval Officer, is one of the Board of Directors of this Private Limited Company. This is against all rules of the Armed Forces. How can pvt ltd company operate from defence property? A copy of the incorporation certificate and PAN CARD of the said company is annexed herewith and marked as Annexure “E” to this Petition.

The Petitioner states that, there was a time when the citizens of India, our great country used to look at the officers of the armed forces with great respect due to their dedication to this country and for their willingness to sacrifice their lives to protect the country. However the incidents highlighted above, have tarnished the image of the armed forces. The xerox copies of the news paper reports regarding the scam committed by the Respondents Nos. 5 to 7 are annexed herewith and marked Annexure “F” to this petition.

4.6. The Petitioner states that, Lt Col Gautam Dutta has been found guilty of several financial irregularities in the Army Court of Inquiry but his father Maj Gen S Dutta threatened and pressurized the enquiry officer. Lt Col Gautam Dutta quietly resigned from the Army to escape punishment and set up Marine Solutions Pvt Ltd to import luxury yachts for the rich and famous. The Petitioner states that at the behest of Respondents Nos. 18 to 19, 120 feet luxury yacht TIAN was imported by marine solutions by fraud to cheat the customs of import levies. The xerox Copy of the notice u/s. 124 of the Customs Act issued by the Commissioner of Customs (Imports) in this matter is annexed herewith and marked as Annexure “G” to this Petition.

TIAN was impounded by the Customs and it was given provisional release restricting the movement of the TIAN yacht. TIAN commander captain Homi Motivala who also resigned from the Navy because of an enquiry into financial irregularities and got Dronacharya award on bogus claims has been filing false TIAN YACHT MOVEMENT REPORTS with the Customs. TIAN is not supposed to leave Mumbai harbour without customs approval but the Goa Port Master and Harbor Master reports show that TIAN has been in Goa Panaji port regularly. Commander Homi Motivala has submitted passenger and cargo manifest of TIAN yacht with Goa Port Authority at the same time the Customs Fortnightly Movement reports shows TIAN is in Mumbai harbor. The Petitioner states that, TIAN is a Pleasure Yacht from Ferretti, Italy and cannot be used for any other purpose except for passenger transport but the Cargo manifest submitted with the Panaji Port reveals Iron Ore cargo on TIAN. After inflatable dinghy-borne terrorists laid siege to Mumbai in the country’s worst terror attack four years ago, security agencies and politicians both at the Centre and State had spoken of improving coastal security. Four years later little seems to have changed. The xerox copies of Detention Memo, Port Clearances, Vessel Profile, Provisional Release Letter are annexed herewith and marked as Annexure “H Coll.” to this Petition.

4.7 The Petitioner states that, Marine Solutions also operates an illegal party barge ISOLA at the restricted Mora coast, Uran. ISOLA was originally constructed as a dumb service pontoon meant for transportation of waste and scraps from ship to shore and was registered as DUMB SERVICE PONTOON PIT STOP at KALYAN in 2009 but has been operating as a luxury floating hotel ISOLA from 2010 onwards by Lt Col Gautam Dutta and his father Maj Gen S Dutta without permission or approvals from Mumbai Port Trust, Mercantile Marine Department of the Shipping Ministry, Coast Guard, Navy and the local authorities like the Maharashtra Maritime Board. ISOLA is frequented by top business corporates and bureaucrats with music and free flowing liquor on the high seas posing grave security threat and risk to the shipping traffic and underground power and data cables linking the commercial capital Mumbai to the financial world centers viz. Hong Kong, Singapore, London and New York. All relevant documents are annexed herewith and marked as Annexure “I” to this Petition.

....

:: SYNOPSIS ::

Year 2003:

Captain Motivala was recommended for award of the Dronacharya Award which was conferred by the Government of India.

03/05/2004:
Commodore S. K. Mongia writes to Admiral Madhvendra Singh describing the illegal activities of the Respondents Nos. 5 to 7.

June 2005:
The Honorary Secretary General of the YAI had reported cases of misappropriation of Government funds by some serving / retired armed forces personnel. It was established that some of the yacht persons had indeed falsified bills, receipts and other supporting documents and claimed excess funds.
YAI had recommended Captain Homi Motivala for the cash/Dronacharya award, for coaching sailors, who had won a Gold Medal at the World Championship.This bogus claim of coaching was refuted by some members of the YAI and when it was established that the claim had been irregularly made, Captain Motivala, was asked to donate Rs. 7.50 lakhs to the YAI.

2009-10:
Property of the Indian Navy is being commercially utilized by a Private Limited Company which has been registered by the Respondents Nos. 5 to 7 with the address of Indian Naval Waterman Ship Training Centre, Colaba, Mumbai. Commander R Mahesh,a serving Naval Officer, is one of the Board of Directors of this Private Limited Company. This is against all rules of the Armed Forces. How can pvt ltd company operate from defence property?

22/11/2011:
While the investigation / inquiry were conducted most of those who had submitted false accounts were serving with either the Indian Navy / Indian Army and once it was established that they were guilty of misappropriation of Government funds, no action was initiated to punish the guilty and for unknown reasons token sums were recovered and deposited with the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports.

Year 2011 :
Lt Col Gautam Dutta (R.No.7) quietly resigned from the Army to escape punishment and set up Marine Solutions Pvt Ltd to import luxury yachts for the rich and famous. At the behest of Respondents Nos. 18 to 19, 120 feet luxury yacht TIAN was imported by Marine solutions by fraud to cheat the customs of import levies. A notice u/s. 124 of the Customs Act was issued by the Commissioner of Customs (Imports) in this matter.

TIAN was impounded by the Customs and it was given provisional release restricting the movement of the TIAN yacht. TIAN commander captain Homi Motivala who also resigned from the Navy because of an enquiry into financial irregularities and got Dronacharya award on bogus claims has been filing false TIAN YACHT MOVEMENT REPORTS with the Customs. TIAN is not supposed to leave Mumbai harbour without customs approval but the Goa Port Master and Harbor Master reports show that TIAN has been in Goa Panaji port regularly. Commander Homi Motivala has submitted passenger and cargo manifest of TIAN yacht with Goa Port Authority at the same time the Customs Fortnightly Movement reports shows TIAN is in Mumbai harbor. The Petitioner states that, TIAN is a Pleasure Yacht from Ferretti, Italy and cannot be used for any other purpose except for passenger transport but the Cargo manifest submitted with the Panaji Port reveals Iron Ore cargo on TIAN. After inflatable dinghy-borne terrorists laid siege to Mumbai in the country’s worst terror attack four years ago, security agencies and politicians both at the Centre and State had spoken of improving coastal security. Four years later little seems to have changed.

Marine Solutions also operates an illegal party barge ISOLA at the restricted Mora coast, Uran. ISOLA was originally constructed as a dumb service pontoon meant for transportation of waste and scraps from ship to shore and was registered as DUMB SERVICE PONTOON PIT STOP at KALYAN in 2009 but has been operating as a luxury floating hotel ISOLA from 2010 onwards by Lt Col Gautam Dutta and his father Maj Gen S Dutta without permission or approvals from Mumbai Port Trust, Mercantile Marine Department of the Shipping Ministry, Coast Guard, Navy and the local authorities like the Maharashtra Maritime Board. ISOLA is frequented by top business corporate and bureaucrats with music and free flowing liquor on the high seas posing grave security threat and risk to the shipping traffic and underground power and data cables linking the commercial capital Mumbai to the financial world centers viz. Hong Kong, Singapore, London and New York.

 

1

Superb open letter from Sania Mirza. A must read. Particularly enjoyed the way she asserts her experience and its devaluation in being dangled some kind of pacifying trophy. A disturbing insight into how we deal with women of achievement.

=========================================

I feel absolutely thrilled and emotionally overwhelmed to have qualified to represent India at the Olympics in London. I am extremely grateful to the International Tennis Federation for the faith they have reposed in me by giving me a wild card entry that gives me a cherished opportunity to represent my country at the Olympics for the second time in my life.

While, of course, nobody in the world can guarantee winning a medal in London, I can promise that I shall leave no stone unturned to bring glory to my beloved country.

I have to admit that helplessly watching the sport that I love and passionately play, go through extremely trying times in my country in the last few days and the unusual pressures that I was personally subjected to have left me shaken and disturbed. But I can assure all my countrymen that I shall never allow these difficult circumstances to come in the way of giving  my very best when the Games begin.

Since the day AITA announced the team for the Olympics a lot of questions have been raised by friends, colleagues, their parents and of course, by the media. As I thought these questions were purely hypothetical without my having qualified into the London Olympics, I did not think it was appropriate for me to respond to them at that point of time. However, now that I am officially a part of the greatest sporting event in the world, I think it is imperative for me to clarify my feelings.

To Dr. Vece Paes, who has on camera asked me to give in writing about my intention of partnering his son for the mixed doubles event at the Olympics, I would like to point out that my commitment is to my country. For the sake of India I am committed to play with Leander Paes or Mahesh Bhupathi or Rohan Bopanna or Somdev Devvarman or Vishnu Vardhan or any other person that my country feels I am good enough to partner. There should never ever be a question on this although if asked, I am entitled to have my preferences. I will do everything i possibly can to win a medal for Inda.

To Leander Paes I would like to point out that Vishnu Vardhan is an extremely talented player, who I had the privilege of partnering. We went on to win a silver medal for India at the 2010 Asian Games, when all the three male stalwarts of Indian tennis had opted to stay away from Guangzhou. I am convinced that he can go one better when pitted with someone as good as Leander as partner. For Leander to consider partnering with Vishnu only if he has a written assurance from me to play mixed (as Vece Uncle has suggested in his television interviews) is, I think demeaning for me, Vishnu and Leander Paes.

Mahesh Bhupathi has firmly stood by his commitment to play together with his men's doubles partner, Rohan Bopanna as he genuinely believed it was good for India. However, in the process, he sacrificed the commitment he made to me to try and win an Olympic medal together for India. Each person has his or her own priorities and I would like to believe that Mahesh made his choice  in the best interests of the country.

As an Indian woman belonging to the 21st century, what I find disillusioning is the humiliating manner in which I was put up as a bait to try and pacify one of the disgruntled stalwarts of Indian tennis. While I feel honored and privileged to have been chosen to partner Leander Paes, the manner and timing of the announcement wreaks of male chauvinism where a two time Grand Slam champion, who has been India's number 1 women's tennis player for almost a decade in singles and doubles is offered in compensation to partner one of the feuding champions purely in order to lure him into accepting to play with a men's player he does not wish to play with! This kind of blatant humiliation of Indian womanhood needs to be condemned even if it comes from the highest controlling body of tennis in our country.

I have been fortunate to achieve a career best singles ranking of 27 in the world that has been only bettered by Vijay Amritraj (16) and Ramesh Krishnan (23) even amongst the men in the modern era. I have a career best doubles ranking of 7 in the world, which only Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi have bettered. I am the only Grand Slam champion from India apart from Mahesh and Leander.  I believe I can expect a little more respect from the National Tennis Federation than what has been accorded to me even if they did not think it necessary to send me a simple congratulatory message after I had won my second Grand Slam title 3 weeks ago.

What is even more shocking is the manner in which facts have been misrepresented to the public at large to paint a totally wrong picture in an attempt to justify the breaking up of a team that won a second Grand Slam title only days earlier. Leander and I are not the only combination likely to get a direct entry into the mixed doubles draw at the Olympics, as has been wrongly portrayed. If that was true, a highly intelligent man like Dr. Paes would not have felt insecure enough to ask for my written declaration to partner Leander. AITA, itself would not have needed to write a letter to Mr. Randhir Singh giving details of the final pairings and clarifying that these could not be changed without the written permission of the IOA!

I would like to reiterate that I consider it the ultimate honour to represent India to the best of my abilities at the Olympics and I will do everything I possibly can with whosoever I am partnered with. This has always been my stand and this will never change. I only seek the blessings of the people of our beloved country. Nothing more.

SANIA MIRZA