NEW BEGINNING: Qatar Athletics Federation president and IAAF vice-president Dahlan Jumaan al-Hamad (right) defeated Suresh Kalmadi (left) by 20 votes to 18 in the Asian Athletics Association elections held in the Indian city of Pune yesterday.
Disgraced Indian sports official Suresh Kalmadi yesterday lost his bid to be re-elected as president of the Asian Athletics Association (AAA) for a fourth term.
Kalmadi lost to Dahlan Jumaan al-Hamad of Qatar by two votes in a hotly-contested election before the Asian Track and Field Championships, beginning in the Indian city of Pune tomorrow.
“It was a tough election,” Hamad told reporters as he emerged briefly from the meeting to announce he had won. “Members saw the work done by both parties and voted accordingly. People have chosen those they see will serve them well. What has happened is good for the future.”
An official, who asked not to be named, said Hamad had garnered 20 votes against Kalmadi’s 18, while seven votes were declared invalid.
Kalmadi, a former Indian Olympic Association chief, is currently on bail after spending 10 months in jail over charges of corruption during his tenure as chief organiser of the chaotic 2010 Commonwealth Games in New Delhi. “I have no issues today and I congratulate Mr Hamad for being elected as president,” the 69-year-old said. “I am in fact relieved that I will now be able to work at the grassroots level in athletics.”
Hamad praised his predecessor as someone who had done much for Asian athletics.
“We can’t forget Kalmadi’s contribution,” he said. “He has done a lot and we have to carry the flag forward.”
The dysfunctional organisation of the Delhi Commonwealth Games—the most expensive in the event’s history at $6 billion—led to Kalmadi becoming a public hate-figure and he was booed by the crowd during the two-week event.
The Commonwealth Games were intended to showcase India on the global stage, but infrastructure problems, delays and widespread corruption allegations instead highlighted many of the problems that blight the country.
International athletics boss Lamine Diack of Senegal was on hand to see Kalmadi, a long-serving lawmaker from Pune, be dethroned from a post he has held since 2001.
Hamad, whose elevation is another victory for ultra-wealthy Qatar, defended the large number of invalidated votes and denied any wrongdoing had taken place. “Mistakes happen in voting but democracy has to prevail in the end,” the Qatari said, without elaborating.
Hamad, 56, a Qatari military official, served under Kalmadi as the AAA’s senior vice-president and is also one of the four vice-presidents of the International Association of Athletics Federations.
Zhaocai Du of China replaced Hamad as the senior vice-president, while Maurice Nicholas of Singapore kept his post as honorary secretary.
Qatar’s reputation as a top sporting destination was boosted when its capital Doha successfully hosted the Asian Games in 2006. Qatar will also be the first Arab state to host the football World Cup in 2022. It bought the French club Paris Saint-Germain last year for $130 million and added a further $340 million to the club’s development.
Qatar’s Mohamed bin Hammam headed the Asian Football Confederation from 2002 to 2011.
AAA PRESIDENT’S MESSAGE...
“Today a new era for the Asian Athletics commences; a new era in which we will use all our forces to boost the image of our beloved sport, to reform the structure of the AAA from its foundations.
I have a vision for Asian Athletics and therefore I have drawn a detailed plan, whose execution begins immediately and is based on realistic ideas and proposals. This will be the vehicle to pave the way for a bright future.
I am sending an open invitation to all the AAA member countries to stand on my side and fight with me. We are living in a vast continent where there are numerous financial sources to derive support, we just need to showcase that we owe the right product which is worthy investing in.
I am quite positive that the day the Asian Athletics will stand in a much higher spot, will not be delayed. It is an auspicious time to move forward and we have to concentrate all our powers to fulfil our quest.”