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Sochi notebook: India’s suspension lifted; flag will fly again


By: Aimee Berg
February 12, 2014

The country’s three athletes had been listed as ‘Independent Olympic Participants’ until Tuesday’s decision

Editor’s note: Al Jazeera contributor Aimee Berg continues her occasional series of short items of interest from the 2014 Winter Games.

SOCHI, Russia — The International Olympic Committee’s executive board decided Tuesday to lift its suspension on the Indian Olympic Association, marking the first time the IOC has ever done so during an Olympic Games. It means the nation’s three athletes can march in the closing ceremony under India’s flag, instead of the generic white “Independent Olympic Participant” standard featuring the interlocked Olympic rings the athletes walked under during the opening ceremony.

The IOC’s decision will also enable 20-year-old alpine skier Himanshu Thakur and 30-year-old cross-country skier Nadeem Iqbal to officially represent India in Sochi. The decision came a little too late for five-time Olympian Shiva Keshavan, however. Keshavan’s luge event concluded Sunday, so his 2014 affiliation will be etched in history as IOP. Although Keshavan placed 37th in Sochi, he had also been responsible for India’s best finish ever at a Winter Games when he placed 25th in 2006. Keshavan had also been a three-time flag bearer for India.

India made its Winter Olympic debut in 1964, and was suspended last year for not complying with the Olympic charter regarding elections and elected officials. On Sunday, the Indian Olympic Association named a new president, secretary general and treasurer.

Olympic dream deferred — eight years

Alaska’s Kikkan Randall was heavily favored to win the first U.S. Olympic medal by a woman in cross-country skiing, so when the reigning world, and (two-time) World Cup, sprint champion was eliminated in the quarterfinals of Tuesday’s 1.3-kilometer event, not only was the loss a major disappointment, but now Randall has to wait eight — not four — years for another shot at a medal in her strongest event.

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