Three Indian athletes have qualified for the Winter Olympics in Sochi, but unfortunately, they will not be able to carry their own flag in the opening ceremonies.
The athletes — including Shiva Kesavan, a 32-year-old luger who will be appearing in his fifth Winter Games; alpine skier Himanshu Thakur; and cross-country competitor Nadeem Iqbal — will compete under the Olympic Flag as “independent athletes” instead of under the Indian banner.
According to an Associated Press report, the Indian Olympic Association was suspended by the IOC in December 2012 for electing corrupt officials such as secretary-general Lalit Bhanot.
He spent more than 10 months in jail on corruption charges related to the 2010 Commonwealth Games in New Dehli, the report states.
While the Indian Olympic Association could have avoided the sanction by electing new officials, the national body waited to set their general assembly until Feb. 9, two days after the opening ceremonies of the Sochi Olympics.
“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,” the IOC said in a statement on Thursday.
Adding insult to injury, two of the three Indian athletes participating in the Sochi Games are now worried about facing disqualification for lack of equipment.
According to a report by the Press Trust of India, Thakur and Iqbal will have to buy new kits or face disqualifications if the Sports Ministry does not release the necessary funds.
“I have to buy the whole sports kits as the ones I am using now will not be accepted in Sochi. I am fearing that I may be thrown out at the starting line,” Himanshu said in the report.
Kesavan told Indian media that not being able to compete under the national flag was “shameful and pathetic.”
He continued, “It is a sad and embarrassing situation that Indian sport has been put in,” he said. “People around the world know about the failure of our systems and about corruption and bad governance in sports.”
Under pressure from the IOC, the Indian body amended its constitution last month to ban corruption-tainted officials from running for election. Had India not complied it would have become the first country expelled from the Olympics since South Africa was kicked out more than 40 years ago.