The Indian flag joined those of 87 other nations flying at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games today when it was hoisted during a team welcome ceremony for the recently reinstated Indian Olympic Association (IOA).
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) lifted the suspension of the IOA on 11 February, thereby allowing the three Indian athletes in Sochi to represent their National Olympic Committee and country. Nadeem Iqbal (cross country), Shiva Keshavan (luge) and Himanshu Thakur (Alpine skiing) began the Games as Independent Olympic Participants and entered the Opening Ceremony under the Olympic flag.
The IOC supported the three athletes directly to ensure their participation at Sochi 2014. Two of the athletes, Keshavan and Thakur, were recipients of Olympic scholarships.
The ceremony in the mountain cluster village was attended by the three Indian athletes, new IOA President Narayna Ramachandran and European Olympic Committees (EOC) President Patrick Hickey.
“It is amazing. It is like coming to the Olympics again,” said Keshavan after the ceremony. “I am thankful to the IOC who let us compete in any case, that they thought of our athletes. Unfortunately my event happened before India was reinstated, but what counts is the country. More than the athletes I think it is the people who were supporting us and wanted to see the athletes represent the country. And I am sure it is a great moment for all Indians. This decision is very good for sport in India. Such situations should not be allowed to happen again, and the new NOC administration now has the power to do well for sport in the future and that's what we look forward to.”
The IOA was suspended in December 2012 due to its failure to comply with the Olympic Charter and its statutes, relating specifically to good governance. As a consequence, the IOA was no longer entitled to exercise any activity or right, including financial support, conferred upon it by the Olympic Charter or the IOC, since that date.
The IOC Executive Board (EB) reinstated the IOA during an ad-hoc meeting in Sochi on 11 February after receiving a report about the IOA’s General Assembly and elections for a new Board, which were successfully held on 9 February 2014 and observed by an IOC delegation headed by IOC member Robin Mitchell.
The IOC observers told the EB members that the elections were held in full respect of the recently passed NOC constitution, which complies with all IOC requirements, including the clause that no person convicted or charge-framed can run for a position within the organisation.
It is the first time in Olympic history that a suspension of an NOC has been lifted during an Olympic Games. The three Indian athletes will walk behind their national flag at the Closing Ceremony on 23 February.