Indian athletes to compete under Olympic flag at Sochi 2014
Wednesday, 08 January 2014
January 8 - Indians competing at Sochi 2014 will do so as independent athletes and not under their country's flag, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has announced after the nation's suspended Olympic body rejected a call to bring forward its elections.
The IOC froze India's membership in December 2012 after tainted officials Abhay Chautala and Lalit Bhanot were elected as President and secretary general, respectively, of the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) amid allegations of corruption linked to the Delhi 2010 Commonwealth Games.
Faced with the threat of expulsion, the IOA eventually caved into pressure from the IOC after more than a year and agreed to a series of changes, but IOC President Thomas Bach last month insisted the suspension would not be lifted until the new elections - scheduled for two days after the Winter Games Opening Ceremony next month - had taken place.
This sparked calls from India's Sports Ministry to bring forward the elections to be held ahead of Sochi 2014, however this request has now been rejected and the February 9 date confirmed.
"We have been informed that the General Assembly and the elections will take place on 9 February and the process follows the IOC's instructions specified last December," an IOC spokesperson told insidethegames.
"Following the Executive Board decision in December, the IOC is considering all necessary arrangements for the Indian athletes who have qualified for the Sochi Games to take part as Independent Olympic Participants under the Olympic flag."
Qualified Indian luger Shiva Keshavan, preparing for his fifth Winter Olympics, said that not being able to compete under the national flag was "shameful and pathetic".
"It is a sad and embarrassing situation that Indian sport has been put in," he told the Mail Today newspaper.
"People around the world know about the failure of our systems and about corruption and bad governance in sports.
"The essence of the Olympic Games is to 'represent' and I feel it is shameful and pathetic for all of us Indians that athletes may not walk under the Indian flag.
"How does an athlete, after putting in years of hard work in training for the Olympics, motivate himself after he is denied an opportunity to represent his own country?
"I remind myself that I am a sportsperson and have to stay focused.
"In my heart and mind, I will be competing for India and representing our country."
He is one of four Indian athletes, alongside skiers Hira Lal, Himanshu Thakur and Nadeem Iqbal, set to compete as independents in Russia next month.
As well as marching under the Olympic flag, the athletes will see the Olympic anthem being played and Olympic flag raised as they stand on the podium should they win a gold medal.
Providing the February elections are held satisfactorily and meet the demands of the IOC, Indian athletes will be able to under their own flag at several other major events this year, including the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games, the Summer Youth Olympic Games in Nanjing and the Asian Games in Incheon.
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December 2013: Indian Olympic stars firmly in support of IOA changes
December 2013: India set to be denied chance to appear under own flag at Sochi 2014