By Amlan Chakraborty
NEW DELHI (Reuters) – The International Olympic Committee has asked India’s Randhir Singh to continue as acting head of the Olympic Council of Asia, according to a letter seen by Reuters, after the IOC refused to recognise the Asian governing body’s elections.
Earlier this week, the IOC banned Kuwait’s Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah for three years, saying he had an “undeniable impact” on this month’s OCA elections in which his brother Sheikh Talal Fahad Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah was appointed president.
Sheikh Ahmad travelled to Bangkok ahead of the election and was in the city when it took place, which was “interpreted as interference in the election process” by the IOC’s ethics commission. Sheikh Ahmad has denied any wrongdoing.
Sheikh Talal was appointed OCA president by a margin of 24 votes to 20 over his fellow Kuwaiti, Husain Al-Musallam.
However, the ethics commission said the IOC should not “recognise these elections until a full review of the OCA’s elections process is carried out at a later stage”.
Sheikh Talal was due to take over from Singh, a former Olympic skeet shooter who was appointed acting president of the OCA in 2021 when Sheikh Ahmad stepped down as president after being convicted by a Swiss criminal court of forgery.
The trial considered whether Sheikh Ahmad had used a bogus Kuwaiti coup plot to gain advantage over political rivals.
Sheikh Ahmad denied all the charges in the case and appealed the conviction. He is awaiting the outcome of the appeal.
A letter to the OCA’s former secretary general Singh from the IOC dated July 30 and seen by Reuters said:
“Seeing as the IOC investigation is likely not to be concluded before October 2023 and since the IOC has not recognised the election of Sheikh Talal Al-Sabah, the IOC will continue to work with you (Singh) as OCA’s acting President…
“Following the outcome of the IOC investigation, we will work with you to implement the next steps of a roadmap to ensure the continued functioning of the OCA according to the basic principles of good governance.”
A former OPEC secretary-general, Sheikh Ahmad was allowed to suspend his own IOC membership in 2018 when he was originally charged with forgery by the court in Geneva, Switzerland.
The OCA was created by Sheikh Ahmad’s father in 1981 and organises the Asian Games, which is held every four years. The next edition starts on Sept. 23 in Hangzhou, China when some 12,000 athletes will compete in almost 500 medal events.
(Reporting by Amlan Chakraborty in New Delhi, writing by Tommy Lund; Editing by Ken Ferris)