The Indian Olympic Association (IOA) also known as Bharatiya Olympic Sangh is a non-governmental not-for-profit organization, of unlimited duration, which exercises its jurisdiction over the whole territory of India.
India traditionally has never been an Olympic powerhouse. Though, when the Olympics did began in early 19th century we were still under the British rule. Most of the youngsters who lived at that point of time were unaware of the fact that there is a world sports event like Olympics.
Most of the games that we played in India did not even feature in Olympics and even now, after 100 years still don’t. Sports like Kho-kho, kabaddi, mallakhamb, and kushti (wrestling) was what Indians indulged into as their free time activity. Yes, wrestling did get recognition as an Olympic sport. We also managed to win many medals at Olympics and commonwealth games in that sport. However, a bad news is that by 2024 Summer Olympics or modern Olympics, wrestling is also going to be scrapped from Olympics list of sports.
The IOA is also the governing body that selects athletes for Winter Olympics as well. And, if you still are unaware, the Winter Olympics is going to start in Pyeongchang in February 2018.
A fun fact of India’s first participation in Olympics is that India first participated in Olympic Games in 1900 in Paris. The united India (including Pakistan) was represented by Norman Pritchard, an Anglo Indian who was holidaying in Paris during that time.
Indian Olympic Association – What led to the formation?
Sir Dorabji Tata, a businessman and key figure in building the Tata Group was the mastermind behind the establishment of Indian Olympic Association. He wanted and was keen on establishing a sport’s governing body at the national level, which would promote the Olympic sport in the United India.
With the support of his friend and colleague Dr A.G. Noehren (the then Director of YMCA), Sir Dorabji Tata established the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) in 1927. Dorabji Tata and Dr. Noehren, who were instrumental in forming the association assumed the positions of the Founder President and Secretary General of IOA, respectively.
Now that the Indian Olympic Association was formed they decided to organize inter-State games on a regular basis. The International Olympic Committee was also quick to officially recognize IOA as India’s national Olympic organization in 1927. Sir Dorabji Tata and Dr. Noehren handled the administration of IOA until 1928.
After the founding members, the responsibilities of running the administration of the Indian Olympic Association were handed over to Maharaja Bhupinder Singh of Patiala. He served as the President of the IOA from 1928 to 1938. Professor Guru Dutt Sondhi took the position of Secretary General of Indian Olympic Association from 1928 to 1952. Sir Tata continued to be a member of the International Olympic Committee until his death in 1931.
Early years of Indian Olympic Association
Sending Teams to the Olympics
After the formation, in its early years the Indian Olympic Association selected sportsperson to represent India at the Olympic Games in 1928, 1932, and 1936. Later, by 1946-47, the Indian Olympic Association took responsibility only to send the Indian team to the Olympics. This meant arranging transport, boarding, and accommodation of the athletes. The separate federations for each sport were responsible for selecting and training competitors for their sport.
In 1948 things developed for IOA. The Council decided that a team representing athletics, swimming, weight lifting, wrestling, boxing, football, and hockey, with officials for each of these sports, and a Chief Manager, would be entered for the 1948 Olympics.
And thus, from 1948 onward, India began sending teams representing several sports categories and each selected by its respective sports federation to the Olympics.
One of the main struggle of Indian Olympic Association during early years was to secure funding. It was required to send the national team to the Olympics and finance the related costs of transport, room, and board. Things were positive back then and IOA obtained funding from the Indian government. They also got funds from state governments, and from various state sports federations.
Role of Indian Olympic Association
The Indian Olympic Association is the apex body of Indian sports. They are responsible for the Indian athletes participation in the Olympic Games, Commonwealth Games and Asian Games (Outdoor-Indoor) and South Asian Games.
All Sports Federations in India at the national level, both Olympic and Non-Olympic Sports, have to be affiliated to or recognized by the IOA. The national federations selects the probables and the IOA gets the final authority to select the final teams from their respective sports. After selecting the sportspersons, the national federations approach the IOA once more to recommend the official sponsorship for participation of in the Games.
The responsibility of the participation of sportspersons in the Olympic Games is bestowed upon the Indian Olympic Association. Apart from the selection, the IOA decides the organization of various games at the national level.
Duties of Indian Olympic Association
The IOA is the link between the Government of India and the sports federations and State Associations. They are either affiliated with it or recognized by it. One of IOA’s main duty is to protect and uphold the status of amateur sportsmen in India. It is also responsible to promote and develop the Olympic Movement of India.
The athletes/teams are picked by the Indian Olympic Association to represent India at the Olympic Games, and also at important international athletic meets. Another critical duty handled by IOA is management of players. Apart from being the chief Association for Olympics in India, the Indian Olympic Association also serves as the Indian Commonwealth Games Association.
Therefore, IOA is also bestowed with the duty of selecting the capable athletes to represent India at the Commonwealth Games.
Responsibilities of Indian Olympic Committee
The Indian Olympic Association is mainly responsible for the preparation and participation of competitors in major sporting events. Not just Olympic Games, but regional events like Commonwealth and Asian Games selection process is also done under IOA. Do remember that there is a separate federation at national level in each sport. They assist the Indian Olympic Association and preparation of sportsmen.
The selection of sportspersons is generally carried out on the basis of performance at national level. But at times, special selection trials are also conducted to choose the competitors for participation in the Olympic Games and other international events. After initial selection, the competitors are required to attend training camps, which is a major responsibility of IOA. The national federations are assisted by local sports governing bodies that provide intensive training for athletes.
The selected athletes are then recommended by the national federations to the IOA. This is done to give official sponsorship for participation in the Olympic Games.
There is another special thing about the Indian Olympic Association. In addition to the national federation for each sport, they have also set up State Olympic Associations in various States of India. The State bodies controlling the different sports are associated to the national federations and to the State Olympic Associations.
The main responsibility of the State Olympic Associations is to ensure the promotion of sports in their respective States. Also, they need to promote different games and sports. However, the overall responsibility for participation in the Olympic Games rests with the Indian Olympic Association.
Additional responsibilities undertaken by the Indian Olympic Association are:
- Deciding the organization of National Games
- Maintaining co-operation between the Government of India and member federations or associations
- Protecting the amateur status of sportsmen
- Promoting and developing the Olympic Movement
Indian Olympic Association and the National Games
The Indian Olympic Association few years after its formation undertook wider outreach with several national sports federations. This move essentially became a clearing house that coordinated the sending of multiple sports teams. The players were selected by their respective sports federations to the Olympics.
In the above write up you have read about the role and responsibilities of IOA. But, they were also the catalyst in starting out India’s biggest sporting event, the National Games. The Indian Olympic Association undertook the task of holding the biennial National Game’s also known as Indian Olympics.
From the formation till the 1940’s IOA discovered that promotion of sports in India needed National Games. As the national sports federation of India during that period didn’t exist, this move paid off. The Indian Olympic Association decided to have separate national federations for each sport. They were categorized like athletics, swimming, basketball, volleyball, wrestling, weightlifting, cycling, boxing, football. These sports federations were responsible to host their national championships at the Indian National Games.
From the formation to the functioning the Indian Olympic Association has come a long way. It is evident we are still far from being a sports powerhouse. But the support that our athletes are getting now is well appreciated. Scouting of rural talent and providing competitive platform is one such efforst. Also, managing their expense to some extent are some of the positive initiatives of IOA.
2018 is a major year for multiple sports events that includes Commonwealth and Asian games. We hope IOA gives full support to the participating athletes. Another major responsibility of the Indian Olympic Association is building a strong Indian contingent for 2020 Olympics, which can determine our status as the leaders of modern Olympics.