Winter Olympics games are about to begin without an official entry from the second-most populated country in the world.
India is not participating in the games, and there will be no team walking out with the Indian national flag at Sochi in Russia – for the first time since India began to participate in the games in 1920 (under the British empire).
Top-performing athletes from more than 200 countries wait for four years for the Olympics. Being able to qualify for the Olympics gives athletes an opportunity to walk with the national flag, possibly win a medal and bring honour to the country.
To be deprived of that honour for a game adds four more years of wait for athletes – eight years is a lifetime for high-performance games as these atheletes can maintain top form for only a few years. In more than 100 years of history of the Olympics, only 488 athletes have participated in more than four Olympics in their lifetime, and none of them is from India.
International Olympics Council (IOC) has suspended Indian Olympic Association (IOA), and as a result Indian athletes cannot participate in the Olympics. Not as India’s official entry.
Three Indian athletes have gone to Sochi as ‘independent athletes‘, a category mostly used for nations that have dissolved and don’t exist anymore.
In India’s case, the situation is a result of a stand-off between the international and national bodies governing Olympics. India’s Suresh Kalmadi is indicted in the Commonwealth Games corruption case and his close aide, Lalit Bhanot has been elected on the governing body of IOA.
IOC has asked IOA to put a clause banning members facing criminal or corruption charges. India has refused to do so, sighting the law of the land and insisting on following the doctrine of ‘innocent until proven guilty’.
This was back in December 2012. India had 13 months to reach a compromise, so that athletes did not suffer. Indian politicians were not keen.
The next Olympics is summer Olympics in 2016. Hopefully our athletes are able to represent the nation as part of an official contingent.
Image courtesy: Creative Commons RubyGoes