Three Indians – Shiva Keshavan, Himanshu Thakur and Nadeem Iqbal – will enter the Olympic stadium on 7th February 2014 at Sochi to participate in the Winter Olympics. But in what can only be seen as a matter of national shame, they won’t be seen waving the tri-colour Indian flag during the Games. That’s because in 2012, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) suspended the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) for violations of its charter, which included electing leaders with pending criminal charges, and the matter has not been resolved till today.
The suspension of the IOA – what exactly happened?
The origin of this entire mess was the IOA’s decision to stage an election that was to be contested by just one official, who had been accused of corruption. The IOA was due to hold elections in which Lalit Bhanot, who had spent 11 months in custody on corruption charges linked to the 2010 Commonwealth Games, was all set to be appointed. Upon learning that, the IOC contended that the elections smacked of government interference, which was in violation of the Olympic charter.
The major bone of contention was that the IOA had followed the national sports code, rather than the rules set out in the Olympic Charter, while conducting its polls. The IOC, in a statement, revealed that they took the decision to suspend the IOA because of the latter’s “failure to comply with the Olympic Charter and its statures, failure to inform the IOC in a timely matter, and as a protective measure against government interference in the IOA’s election process.”
Until the suspension would be lifted, Indian athletes wouldn’t be able to participate in any Olympic events, with the IOA also losing its IOC funding.
Of course, even a grave matter such as a suspension didn’t deter the IOA officials from going on with the elections exactly as they had initially planned to. The act of defiance may have seemed like a strong statement of intent at that time, but did they give no consideration to the hapless Indian athletes who would be deprived of the chance to represent their country at Olympic events?
Better sense has prevailed now, with the IOA announcing that it would hold its elections this year on February 9th, following which the IOC decided that Indian athletes could participate in the Winter Olympics. But since the elections would be held after the February 7 start of the Games, the Indian participants would have to compete under the Olympic flag rather than the Indian one; the Indian flag or symbols will not be allowed at the venues or the opening ceremony.
So basically, a stubborn adherence by the IOA to stick to its predetermined schedule has made caused India’s flag to be banned from the Olympic Games in Sochi. It is a matter of just three days; if the IOA had held its elections on February 6 instead of February 9, the Indian flag would have been allowed to be displayed at the Games. If that sounds ridiculous to you, then join the club.
Sorry state of Indian sports
At the Winter Olympics, three of India’s competent athletes will be present to participate in their individual events. India’s most prominent athlete at the Winter Olympics would be Shiva Keshavan, a luge athlete.
Keshavan has no personal coach. His training is funded by mostly private donations, and he built his luge sled at his own garage. Incredibly, India does not have any luge track, which forced the athlete to train on wheels. And after all that perseverance, Keshavan will not hear his country’s national anthem being played behind him before the start of his event at the Games.
It is sad to know that the Union Sports Ministry is yet to recognize the National Luge Federation as part of their organization.
Because it is not recognized by the Government, the National Luge Federation lacks funding. It goes without saying that this is a major hindrance for many budding talents who choose to become luge athletes. There is absolutely no guarantee of livelihood in this sport.