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Tricolour to fly again as IOA returns from suspension

Tuesday, 11 February 2014 - 8:59pm IST | Agency: PTI

Ousted from the Olympic movement due to tainted officials and government interference more than a year ago, India's exile came to an end on Tuesday after the International Olympic Committee (IOC) welcomed the country back into the fold within days of fresh elections in the scam-riddled IOA.

"The IOC Executive Board (EB) reinstated the National Olympic Committee (NOC) of India, the Indian Olympic Association, during an ad-hoc meeting in Sochi on Tuesday," the IOC said in a statement.

"The EB took this decision following 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," it added.

The IOC lifted the 14-month old ban after the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) barred charge-framed officials from its fresh election in which World Squash Federation chief and younger brother of BCCI boss N Srinivasan, N Ramachandran, was elected as the president.

The decision comes after the IOC's three observers for the elections left Indian shores "satisfied with the IOA elections promising to submit a "favourable report to the IOC president".

"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," the IOC stated.

As a result of the IOC's decisions, the Indian athletes will now be able to compete under the national flag at international events.

They had been competing as independent athletes ever since the IOA was slapped with a suspension for failing to comply with the Olympic Charter and its statutes, relating specifically to good governance.

The most immediate effect of this would be seen at the ongoing Winter Olympics in Sochi, where the Indians would now be allowed to carry the tri-colour during the closing ceremony after parading through the opening ceremony under an IOC flag.

"It is the first time in Olympic history that a suspension of an NOC has been lifted during an Olympic Games, and the decision will have an immediate impact. Indian athletes entered the Sochi Games under the Olympic flag during the Opening Ceremony on 7 February 2014, and have competed as Independent Olympic Participants," the IOC said.

"The EB decision means they can now compete for the National Olympic Committee of India and will walk behind their national flag at the Closing Ceremony on 23 February. To symbolically mark the lifting of the suspension and in recognition of the three Indian athletes competing in Sochi, the Indian flag will be raised in the Olympic Village," it added.

At the elections held on Sunday, All India Tennis Association (AITA) chief Anil Khanna was elected Treasurer which marked the exit of corruption-tainted Abhay Singh Chautala and Lalit Bhanot from the IOA.

The 2008 and 2012 Olympics medallist wrestler Sushil Kumar said he was happy that the three Indian athletes will now be able to walk under the tri-colour during the closing ceremony of the Sochi Winter Games on February 23.

"It's a great day for all the athletes who put their blood, sweat and tears to represent the country under the Indian tri-colour and win medals. It's time for everyone to get ready for Commonwealth and Asian Games because now we can participate under the tri-colour and not as independent athletes under the IOC flag," Sushil said.

"I am happy for Shiva Keshavan and the other two athletes who can now represent the country at the closing ceremony of the Sochi Games. My humble request to all the officials is we don't want a repeat of the Sochi Olympics," Sushil said.

"The ban should not have happened at all in first place. All this brought disrepute to our country. It was really disappointing. But, now I can hope it's a new beginning. Now it's time to work together and build a better tomorrow."

Former 'sprint queen' PT Usha said she was happy that Indian athletes will again be able to compete in international events under the tri-colour.

"It's always a different feeling to represent your country whether it's Olympics, Asian Games or the Commonwealth Games. How would you get the inspiration to compete as an Independent athlete. I felt sorry for the three Indians in the Winter Olympics," she said. 

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