The International Olympic Committee reinstated India into the Olympics on Tuesday, in time for the country’s flag to fly in the Olympic Village in Sochi, but not before the country’s competitors had to participate as independent athletes.
The IOC lifted India’s suspension after the country’s Olympic committee held elections on Sunday and installed world squash chief Narayna Ramachandran as the new president, the Associated Press reports. The international body had suspended India’s Olympic committee in December 2012 after it elected Abhay Chautala as president and Lalit Bhanot as secretary-general. Both men were not eligible to stand for elections due to corruption charges, which they have denied. The IOC said that it is the first time in history that a national Olympic committee’s suspension has been lifted during the games.
After a special flag raising ceremony on Tuesday, India’s athletes can now officially compete for their home country, but the settlement came too late for some of the games’ most memorable moments. India’s athletes had to march in the opening ceremonies behind an Olympic flag and begin the competition participating as independents. India’s top winter sports athlete, Shiva Keshava—who trained for his fifth Olympics by practicing the luge on Himalayan highways—finished 37th in the luge while competing under the Olympics flag. “The whole world is watching,” Keshava told the AP, “and when the Indian flag doesn’t fly, people know that it’s because of corruption and it’s not a nice image for the country.”
Now that the suspension has been lifted, Keshava and the other Indian athletes can march behind their country’s flag during the closing ceremonies. “You have a lot more behind you when you go with your country’s flag,” Keshava said.