India eyes return to Olympics with government guarantees

Wed May 15, 2013 3:32pm BST

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(Reuters) - India has assured the International Olympic Committee (IOC) of the Olympic movement's autonomy in the country in a first step towards mending relations after the nation was banned from the Olympics over government interference.

"(India's) Sports Minister Jitendra Singh gave strong guarantees and a clear commitment that the government of India will fully respect the principle of autonomy of the Olympic movement," the IOC said on Wednesday.

The IOC's comments came at the end of a meeting with India's sports minister, national federations and suspended Indian Olympic Association (IOA) members in Lausanne.

The IOC banned the country in December after refusing to recognise the results of IOA elections due to government interference, which led to a tainted official being named its secretary general.

"It was agreed in particular that the drafting of the new sports bill will be undertaken in close coordination with the IOA and the national federations, and with prior consultation with the IOC to ensure that it will be fully compatible with the principles and rules of the Olympic Movement," the IOC said.

The ban meant an end to funding from the IOC for the IOA, no Indian officials attending Olympic meetings and Indian athletes banned from competing at the Olympics under their country's flag.

"The main purpose of today's meetings was to explore the possibility for the suspended IOA to hold free, fair, democratic and transparent elections on the basis of a revised IOA constitution and the Olympic Charter, with no outside interference, that could pave the way for the IOC to consider lifting its suspension of the IOA," the IOC said.

For Indians it was a crucial first step.

"The IOC is going to propose a roadmap on how we can get back into the Olympic fold," said Beijing 2008 Olympics shooting gold medallist Abhinav Bindra, who was part of the Indian delegation.

"That's in the right direction but surely the ban is not lifted as of today. I don't think in one meeting we can expect a ban to be lifted. It's a start, it's a process," he told reporters.

(Additional reporting by Amlan Chakraborty in New Delhi; Reporting by Karolos Grohmann; Editing by Clare Fallon)

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