India has had their 14-month Olympic ban lifted, paving the way for the three competing Indian athletes to walk behind their nation’s flag with pride at the Winter Olympics closing ceremony.
"It's an amazing feeling now that I will carry the name India on my dress and other equipment."
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has lifted the ban inflicted on India’s Olympic Association (IOA).
After a fresh election meeting on Sunday, 9 February, by the IOA and the election of world squash Chief Narayna Ramachandran as president, the IOC announced on Tuesday that India would be allowed to compete in the Olympics under their flag.
Currently the three athletes taking part in Sochi have been competing under the IOC flag however this will now change, rekindling the spirit in the Indian camp.
Newly elected IOA secretary general, Rajeev Mehta told Reuters the news was a great start for the new team:
“I got a call from the IOC on Tuesday morning confirming the ban has been lifted. It’s a great start for the new team at IOA. This is all the more significant as this year we have the Asian and Commonwealth games.”
The India Olympic Association were suspended for electing officials accused of corruption in 2012 by The International Olympic Committee (IOC) leaving millions of Indian supporters around the world embarrassed as they watched their nations athletes carry the IOC flag and not their nations flag into the stadium at the opening ceremony.
This is the first time a suspension of a national Olympic committee has been lifted during an Olympic Games and it comes into effect immediately. IOC spokesman Mark Adams said:
“The Indian flag will be raised in the village at a time to be announced. The decision means Indian athletes can compete for their national Olympic committee. They can walk behind their national flag at the closing ceremony.”
Shiva Keshavan who has competed in every Winter Olympics since 1998 told the Association Press: “That enthusiasm wasn’t there that I generally feel at the opening ceremony. You have a lot more behind you when you go with your country’s flag.”
He also added: “When the Indian flag doesn’t fly, people know that it’s because of corruption and it’s not a nice image for the country.”
30-year-old Alpine Skier, Himanshu Thakur spoke of his delight and surprise at the ban being lifted: “It’s my first Winter Olympics and I was feeling bad that I would compete under IOC banner.
“But now I am going to take part as an Indian athlete. What more can I ask for, it’s something I had not thought of. It’s an amazing feeling now that I will carry the name India on my dress and other equipment.”
Now that India can be officially recognised under their own flag in Sochi, Roshan Lal Thakur, the Secretary General of Winter Games Federation has the task of changing the suits of Nadeem Iqbal and Himanshu Thakur. As they were not participating as Indian athletes the current suits do not have India on them.
India has had its fair share of controversies in relation to corruption and many people in the country feel let down by the government and various organisations who have not eliminated and clamped down on the people involved in corruption.
IOC member Randhir Singh welcomed the decision and said: “It was great news for Indian sport. It’s time everyone understands that the Olympic charter is supreme. It is important that sport is run well and tainted officials are kept out in a country of 1.2 billion in which 40 per cent is youth.”
Billions of Indian’s will now be cheering on the remaining two hopefuls in Sochi and hope they will do their country proud by flying the tri-colour flag of India high.
Keshavan completed his event on Sunday finishing 37th in the men’s single Luge. Cross Country skier, Nadeem Iqbal will begin his campaign in the 15km Classic run event on February 14, while Alpine skier Himanshu’s Giant Slalom event begins on February 19.
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