In from the cold: India has been officially excluded from the Sochi Winter Olympic Games but four of its athletes will still compete

 

When the athletes march into the opening ceremony of the Sochi Olympics next month, one flag you won't be seeing is the green, white, and saffron of India. Four Indian skiers will be participating in the games as independent athletes, but they won't be able to formally represent their country, since the Indian Olympic Association has been suspended by the International Olympic Committee since 2012.

The suspension was due to the IOA's plans to hold an election for its leadership that would have been contested by just one official, who had spent 11 months in custody on corruption charges linked to the scandal-plagued 2010 Commonwealth Games.

Frankly, given the reports that have been coming out about the host of this year's games, the IOC – not a body known for its unimpeachable record on ethics – could probably cut India some slack here.

India's absence is unlikely to be felt in a major way in the medal count: the country has never won a Winter Olympic medal. Overall, the world's second-most-populous country and 10th-largest economy is one of the great underperformers of Olympic history, having taken home just 26 medals in 31 Olympics, fewer than North Korea or Slovakia.

A number of factors may contribute to this, including a lack of sports infrastructure, economic underdevelopment over much of the country's history, and the fact that it's always been democratic: Communist countries traditionally overperform at the Olympics. India also can't help that cricket, overwhelmingly the country's most popular sport, is not an Olympic event.

Things had seemed to be improving lately: India took home six medals in London, and billionaire Lakshmi Mittal has set up a programme to put more money into sports training. But the Olympic suspension is unlikely to help increase the country's haul in the future, particularly if it lasts through Rio. Regardless of what happens in 2016, though, India's all-male Sochi hopefuls are competing against the odds, so should you wish to cheer them on, allow us to introduce them...

Snow down: Hira Lal competes in Turin (Getty Images) Snow down: Hira Lal competes in Turin (Getty Images)
Name: Shiva Keshavan
Category: Luge
Age: 32
Home: Manali, Himachal Pradesh
Career highlights: Representing India internationally as Luge pilot since 1997; youngest-ever luge at the Olympics (in the men's category as a 16-year-old) and sole Indian representative at the 1998 Winter Olympics in Japan where he came 28th; only Indian competitor at the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, USA, where he placed 33rd; 25th in 2006 Winter Olympics in Torino, Italy, and 31st (first run) and 28th (second run) at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, Canada

Name: Himanshu Thakur
Category: Alpine skiing
Age: 20
Home: Manali, Himachal Pradesh (he will be competing against his elder cousin Hira Lal, below, in the event)
Career highlights: FIS World Ski Championships starts (2)

Name: Hira Lal
Category: Alpine skiing
Age: 33
Home: Manali, Himachal Pradesh
Career highlights: Olympic Games starts (1)

Name: Nadeem Iqbal
Category:
Cross-country skiing
Age: 30
Home:
Gulmarg, Jammu and Kashmir
Career highlights: FIS World Ski Championships starts (1)

A version of this article appeared on Slate.com

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Suited and booted in the Lanvin show at the Paris menswear collections
fashionParis Fashion Week
Arts and Entertainment
Kara Tointon and Jeremy Piven star in Mr Selfridge
tvActress Kara Tointon on what to expect from Series 3
Voices
Winston Churchill, then prime minister, outside No 10 in June 1943
voicesA C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
News
An asteroid is set to pass so close to Earth it will be visible with binoculars
news
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch has spoken about the lack of opportunities for black British actors in the UK
film
News
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project