New Delhi: There were three Indian athletes but no India flag at the 2014 Winter Games opening ceremony, in Sochi, on Friday. That perhaps is embarrassing for many Indians, but not for two government officials who have gone to the Russian city uninvited.
India will be represented by luger Shiva Keshavan, alpine skier Himanshu Thakur and cross-country skier Nadeem Iqbal.
But they will participate under the International Olympic Committee (IOC) flag, and not the Tricolour, as the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) is currently under suspension from the IOC for not following the Olympic Charter during its elections in December 2012. The elections were later declared null and void by the world body.
However, according to sources, two officials — one from the sports ministry and the other from the Sports Authority of India (SAI) — have gone to Sochi on government expenses even after they were denied accreditation by the IOC.
While one is the director in the Teams Wing of the SAI, the other is an under secretary in the sports ministry.
The IOC has flatly refused to give the duo accreditation, saying it would not entertain government officials. So the two bureaucrats will have no access to the Games Village or any other official arena in the Sochi meet.
While a section of the officials in the ministry alleged the trip is actually a pleasure trip in the name of official duty, a senior SAI officer defended the decision. “It is not the first time the government officials are accompanying an Indian Olympic squad… It happens every time. In case of any emergency, they would be of great help. They are government observers. There is nothing wrong in it,” argued the official.
Asked how the two senior bureaucrats would be of any help when they have no accreditation, the officer said: “The Indian embassy there has been informed… They will help out our men.”
The sports ministry officials are also of the view that the refusal of accreditation to their two officers is directly linked with India’s suspension. “Since the IOC is upset with IOA, it does not want to entertain our requests.”
This is not the first time in recent times that the government officials have gone abroad to attend international sports meet uninvited. Last year, a SAI officer went for an Asian level junior boxing championship. He was not allowed to stay at the team hotel. Like the IOA, the Indian Boxing Federation (IBF) is also under suspension from the international body (AIBA).
IOA’s inability to hold its elections before the Winter Olympics is also one of the reasons why the Indians would be without their flags in Sochi. The elections are now scheduled for Sunday and the suspension is likely to be revoked immediately.