Pune, July 1 (IANS) Suresh Kalmadi’s 13-year run as the president of the the Asian Athletics Association (AAA) ended Monday as he lost his re-election bid 18-20 to Qatari Dahlan al-Hamad during the 20th Congress of the continental body in his home town here.
Kalmadi’s exit was similar to his rise when he became the AAA president in 2000, beating then incumbent Indonesian Bob Hassan 19-15 on his home turf in Jakarta.
This time though the odds stacked against Kalmadi, who is out on bail after serving nine months in a Delhi jail for his alleged involvement in corruption in 2010 Commonwealth Games, he gave a tough fight to the Qatari, a senior vice-president in the AAA, but lost 18-20.
The AAA president was the only sports body post Kalmadi, former president of Indian Olympic Association (IOA) and chairman of Commonwealth Games Organising Committee, has held since being out of jail. Kalmadi had stepped aside as the IOA president and was replaced last year by Abhay Chautala but the IOA was suspended over its election process.
In the build-up to the AAA contest, Kalmadi’s election campaign was spearheaded by his close aide Lalit Bhanot, who is also out on bail in Commonwealth Games corruption scandal. Bhanot, a former secretary of the Athletics Federation of India (AFI), is the secretary general of the suspended IOA.
Al-Hamad was backed by famous Qatari athlete Talal Mansour, a three-time Asian Games gold medallist in 200 metres.
The Congress was attended by 45 member-countries with each member having a vote. Seven votes were invalid as Al-Hamad, president of Qatar Federation of Athletics (QFA), won 20-18.
Al-Hamad said his priority now will be to develop sports in Asia as a whole.
“The members have chosen nominees that they think will serve them in this movement. We will work day and night to work for the Asian federation. Overall we have to respect the constitution and apply democracy in the voting. There is no way to satisfy everybody,” he said.
Al-Hamad said that Kalmadi’s contribution to Asian athletics can never be forgotten.
“We cannot forget Mr. Kalmadi’s contribution. He did his best, now we have to take the baton from him and continue the movement,” said Hammad.
Al-Hamad said that the world body International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) must set terms for presidents.
“It is life and you always have to review your rules. IAAF is working on how to make the movement better. There is now way that we will sit still without looking into the future. A lot of funding in athletics is coming from Asia and we would want to develop Asian athletics even more. I will not disappoint in my term as the AAA president,” said Al-Hamad.