They’re back, all three of them.
The trio in question is the Indian athletes – an alpine skier, a cross-country skier and a luger – who suffered the embarrassment of marching in the Sochi Olympics opening ceremony parade and competing under the Olympic flag, not the flag of their own country.
It wasn’t their fault. India’s allegedly corrupt National Olympic Committee had been suspended by the International Olympic Committee (IOC). On Tuesday, that suspension was lifted and, after a flag raising ceremony at the Olympic village, the Indian athletes will get their country back.
IOC communications director Mark Adams said it was the first time in Olympic history that a national suspension was lifting during the games. India, the world’s second most populous country, was reinstated after holding elections on Sunday and installing world squash chief Narayna Ramachandran as its national Olympic president. “We are happy that everything is correct and as it should be,” Adams said.
India was suspended by the IOC in late 2012 for electing tainted officials, among them president Abhay Chautala, who was charged in a recruitment scam unrelated to sport, and secretary-general Lalit Bhanot, who was charged with corruption during the organization of the 2010 Commonwealth Games (both deny the allegations).
The Indian athletes will be thrilled. They hated competing under the Olympic flag; the Games are battles among nations more than individual athletes. “It is upsetting,” luger Shiva Keshavan told Associated Press just before the Games started. “Ultimately for us the inspiration is to represent our country. That’s what the Olympics are all about.”
None of the Indian athletes is considered a medal contender. Keshevan, and Olympic veteran, rarely finishes higher that 28th in luge competitions. But, as of today, spectators will at least be able to attach a country to his heroic efforts.