The Olympics are never free from political influence and associations, but in India, political infighting has literally cost the nation's athletes the chance to compete under their own flag.
India's membership in the International Olympic Committee has been frozen since December 2012, when the IOC learned that India elected officials accused of corruption to its national Olympic committee. The Indian Olympic Association will hold new elections, but those elections will not be held until after the start of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.
[Photos: Team USA podium fashion]
As a result, India's athletes must compete as independents, and will enter the Opening Ceremony under a generic Olympic flag, not the nation's flag as shown above in 2012.
Naturally, and justifiably, Indian athletes are outraged. "It is a sad and embarrassing situation that Indian sport has been put in," Shiva Keshavan, a luger who will compete in his fifth Olympics, told a local newspaper. "People around the world know about the failure of our systems and about corruption and bad governance in sports. The essence of the Olympic Games is to 'represent' and I feel it is shameful and pathetic for all of us Indians that athletes may not walk under the Indian flag."
India had been warned in December that its athletes faced the possibility of being classified as independent if the nation did not hold elections before February 7, the date of the Opening Ceremony. The IOA decided at a December meeting to hold the elections two days later, on February 9.
Why not simply change the date and move it a few days earlier? That's thinking about solving the problem, not preserving the process. "The decision to have elections on February 9 was taken at a special general body meeting last month," an IOA source told the AFP. "We would have had to call another general body meeting to change the dates."
"We have had discussions and it was mutually agreed that we must not take decisions in haste," a source told India Today. "So it was decided not to alter the dates for the elections. [Changing the election date] may allow people to exploit legal loopholes in the decision and jeopardize the polls again."
So rather than alter its bureaucratic procedures, India's Olympic committee has opted to embarrass its athletes, its nation and itself in front of the entire world. Olympic spirit apparently means very different things to different people.