Indian athletes at Sochi 2014 able to compete under own flag after Olympic suspension lifted

Tuesday, 11 February 2014
By Duncan Mackay in Pushkin Hall at the Main Press Centre in Sochi

Indias Shiva Keshavan Nadeem Iqbal and Himanshu Thakur are competing as independent athletes under the Olympic flag at Sochi 2014 Getty ImagesFebruary 11 - India's athletes taking part at Sochi 2014 will be allowed to compete under their own flag after the decision today by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to lift the country's suspension. 

The Indian Olympic Association (IOA) had been suspended since December 2012 but, following successful elections, in New Delhi on Sunday (December 9) that has now been lifted.

The decision was taken by an ad hoc meeting of the IOC's ruling Executive Board here today after Robin Mitchell, the member who was the official observer at the election, reported the IOA had met the criteria set down by the IOC.

Mitchell, accompanied to the Indian capital by Pere Miró, the IOC's director of relations with the National Olympic Committees, told Executive Board members the elections were held in full respect of the recently passed constitution, which complies with all IOC requirements.

This included the clause no person convicted of crimes or facing charges can run for a position within the organisation.

The row with the IOA had started when Lalit Bhanot, who spent 11 months in jail on corruption charges linked to the Delhi 2010 Commonwealth Games, ran unopposed for the position of IOA secretary general, while another tainted official - Abhay Chautala - became President, in elections that the IOC refused to recognise.

They have now stepped down and been replaced by World Squash Federation chief Narayana Ramachandran as the new President and Kho Kho Federation of India head Rajeev Mehta as the new secretary general.

It is the first time in Olympic history that a suspension of an NOC has been lifted during an Olympic Games and is another sign of the new flexible approached adopted by IOC President Thomas Bach.

Shiva Keshavan was denied the opportunity to compete under the Indian flag at Sochi 2014 as the luge took place on the opening day of competition ©AFP/Getty ImagesShiva Keshavan was denied the opportunity to compete under the Indian flag at Sochi 2014 as the luge took place on the opening day of competition ©AFP/Getty Images

Indian representatives here - Shiva Keshavan in luge, cross country skier Nadeem Iqbal and Alpine skier Himanshu Thakur - entered under the Olympic flag during the Opening Ceremony  last Friday (February 7), and were due to compete as Independent Olympic Participants.

For Keshavan it is too late, as he has already taken part in his event, finishing 37th out of 39 competitors on the opening day of competition on Saturday (February 8).

But the decision means the remaining two can now compete for India and all three will walk behind their national flag at the Closing Ceremony on February 23.

To symbolically mark the lifting of the suspension and in recognition of the three Indian athletes competing in Sochi, the Indian flag will be raised in the Olympic Village, probably at a special ceremony tomorrow.

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Related stories
February 2014: World Squash chief Ramachandran elected President of suspended Indian Olympic Association
January 2014: World Squash chief set to be new President of Indian Olympic Association
January 2014: Indian athletes to compete under Olympic flag at Sochi 2014
December 2013: India set to be denied chance to appear under own flag at Sochi 2014
December 2013India Olympic Association agree to amend constitution after Bach threatens them with expulsion

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