Suspending Para body in India will hit the sport hard ahead of Paris 2024

Para Asian Games athletes
Para Asian Games athletes (Image: Ministry of Youth and Sports)

The suspension of the Paralympics Committee of India (PCI) gives the nation a bad name globally after it was suspended by the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports on Saturday. The reason for suspension is “non-compliance and for not conducting elections on time.”

On the one hand, India won 111 medals at the Para Asian Games in Hangzhou, China last year. The Indian Para athletes were supposed to double its medal count at the forthcoming Paris Paralympics. In such a scenario, the PCI getting suspended is not good news.

In all this mess, it is the athletes who lose out. With the Para Shooting World Cup scheduled in New Delhi in March, which is also the last qualifying event for Paris, the athletes are bound to feel deflated. Corporate sponsors will now become jittery as to why they should support the event and the athlete will find it hard to push themselves knowing their apex body stands suspended.

Also Read: Suspension of Paralympic Committee of India: Violations, Delays, and the Path to Reform

Indian Paralympic sport was turning a corner. See the medal haul in Tokyo, a whopping 19. From four in Rio in 2016, it was a big rise. The medal haul in Paris is expected to be double of Tokyo 2020. When the sport has momentum, to hear news like the suspension of the PCI is a real blow. India looks bad. With the world watching us, we look discredited. That’s where the problem is. Athletes will suffer and the national image will take a beating because of things that could well have been avoided.

This suspension is a stark reminder how governance in sports is still a massive issue. There is no easy fix. If we thought bringing athletes on board as officials would solve everything, it hasn’t. What needs to happen is we nurture a group of athletes, progressive sports administrators etc look to taking on larger roles and responsibilities. It can’t just be an experiment.

This is a process which will require a couple of Olympic cycles. It is important we start now to create enough quality human capital across all levels of sport. Only then the environment will change. Having one CEO in an environment which hasn’t seen a corporate style of governance will only create friction. Work needs to be done slowly but urgently. India needs to work on change across the system and that needs patience and persistence in equal measure.

For the moment, though, one hopes the Para Shooting World Cup which has 56 countries participating goes off smoothly. One hopes sponsors don’t withdraw ahead of Paris. One hopes athletes don’t find it hard to make it to the qualifying events. And finally, one hopes elections to the PCI are conducted ASAP and the mess is resolved. India deserves better and so do the Paralympic athletes.

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