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

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

Day In a Page

Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering