Nepal’s participation in the London Olympics starting July 27 is in jeopardy. The board meeting of National Sports Council (NSC) under the chairmanship of its patron PM Baburam Bhattarai on Sunday recommended to the cabinet that both the Olympic committees in existence in the country be dissolved. One would assume that a PM-led national cabinet would have the powers to take action against any of the country’s errant sporting bodies. It does. It has the legal authority to punish a sporting body that has been flagged by NSC for inappropriate conduct. But when it comes to bodies that are operated under the direct control of international sporting organizations like the football governing FIFA and the International Olympic Committee (IOC), national governments are allowed little say.
For instance, only National Olympic Committee´s General Assembly can reshuffle the National Committee under IOC´s observation. This was done with the intent of minimizing undue political interference in such bodies. Indeed, the IOC has a strong case for putting in place such a provision, particularly in countries like Nepal where the sporting arena has become a playing field of political parties. According to insiders, at the heart of the current debate is the desire of NSC member secretary Yubaraj Lama, a UCPN (Maoist) appointee, to push through his confidantes in the IOC-approved National Olympics Committee (NOC) led by Dhruba Bahadur Pradhan. The parallel NOC under Rukma Shamsher Rana is largely defunct after IOC declined to recognize it. Trying to justify NSC’s decision, its head Lama has accused the Pradhan-led committee of failing to maintain transparency and trying to bypass NSC in selecting players and coaches for the London Olympics. Likewise, he pointed to the irrelevance of Rana-led committee (as it does not have IOC’s backing). For their part, the two NOCs have questioned the government’s authority to dissolve them.
If the cabinet approves NSC’s dissolution motion, Nepal’s participation in London Olympics will be in doubt. If Nepali representatives from IOC-approved NOC fail to attend national teams’ gathering in London prior to the July 27 start of the Olympics (which they will if the NOCs are dissolved), Nepal will be barred from the games. We believe this potentially catastrophic development to Nepali sports and the country’s standing in the international arena has to be avoided at all costs. There will always be time to settle internal disputes. Now that the dissolution motion has been forwarded to the cabinet, it will have to carefully weigh its options through consultations with experts in the field so as to arrive at a decision that is in the best interests of Nepali sports.
In the long run, we would like to see the government come up with a long-term plan to settle disputes between international sports governing bodies and their country representatives. And of course, a merit-based selection process for top sporting officials will better serve the interests of Nepali sports, as opposed to the current system based on political patronage. But at this moment, there is no bigger priority than avoiding Nepal’s disqualification from the XXX Olympiad, which should be avoided at all costs