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India returns to Olympic fold as ban lifted

Updated: Tuesday, 11 Feb 2014 12:34 | Comments

Shive Keshavan is one of three athletes from India who entered the Games under the IOC flag
Shive Keshavan is one of three athletes from India who entered the Games under the IOC flag

India has returned to the Olympic fold after the IOC lifted a ban on the country's Olympic Association, and its athletes will now be able to march behind the Indian flag at the Sochi Games closing ceremony.

India's athletes have been competing in Sochi under the Olympic flag due to the country's suspension, imposed after the country held a 2012 Olympic association (IOA) election in which a corruption-tainted official was voted in as secretary general.

On Sunday the IOA elected a new set of officials. World Squash Federation chief N. Ramachandran was elected president with All India Tennis Association chief Anil Khanna becoming treasurer in polls which marked the exit of corruption-tainted Abhay Singh Chautala and Lalit Bhanot from the IOA.

"It's great news for the Indian athletes," Randhir Singh, International Olympic Committee member from India, told Reuters.

"IOA has finally realised that the Olympic Charter is supreme and you have to fall in line and follow the principles of ethics and good governance. Tainted officials have no place in IOA."

The decision marks the first time a suspension of a National Olympic Committee has been lifted during an Olympic Games, and will have an immediate impact.

Indian athletes entered the Sochi Games under the Olympic flag during the opening ceremony on 7 February, and have competed as Independent Olympic Participants.

The IOC's decision means they can now compete for 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.

"I'm happy with the new IOA team. (In N. Ramachandran and Anil Khanna) you have two world class administrators," Singh  added.

Newly elected IOA secretary general Rajeev Mehta told Reuters the news was a great start for the new team.

"I got a call from the IOC this morning confirming the ban has been lifted and I'm now waiting for a written communication. It's a great start for the new team at IOA.

"This is all the more significant as this year we have Asian Games and Commonwealth Games.

"Indian athletes will be competing once again under the Indian flag. It's a great relief for us."

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