Indian participants excited to see Indian flag at Sochi
The Indian flag was unfurled at the Winter Olympics Village in Sochi at a special ceremony, five days after the International Olympic Committee revoked a 14-month suspension on the country.
The ceremony, which lasted around 45 minutes and organised at the International Plaza of the Mountain Village, was attended by the three Indian athletes taking part in the event, Indian Olympic Association president N Ramachandran and IOC officials nine days into the Sochi Games.
Luger Shiva Keshavan, alpine skier Himanshu Thakur and cross country skier Nadeem Iqbal and their three coaches stood silent as the tri-colour was hoisted with the national anthem being played at the background. The ceremony started at 1200 hrs local time (1330 IST).
"There were three IOC officials and IOA president in the ceremony, besides the six of us -- three athletes and three coaches and a few people from other countries. We have arranged our ceremonial dresses on which were written India," Winter Games Federation of India Secretary Roshan Lal Thakur, one of the coaches said.
"We were not allowed to fly the tri-colour and wear any dress on which is written India when the Games began due to IOA's suspension but after the suspension was lifted, we can now proudly fly our national flag and wear dresses with India written on them," he said.
Image: Indian athletes Nadeem Iqbal , Shiva Keshavan and Himanshu Thakur with newly elected IOA President, Narayna Ramachandran arrive during the welcome ceremony and flag raising at the mountain athletes village
Photographs: Julian Finney/Getty Images
'Six of us along with the IOA president stood in a line'
Asked about the ceremony, Thakur said, "Six of us along with the IOA president stood in a line. First the IOC flag was raised and then the tri-colour with the national anthem sung at the background."
The raising of the tri-colour symbolically marked the end of India's suspension, a week after the IOA conducted its elections on the diktat of the IOC.
IOA's new president Ramachandran said, "I am thrilled and delighted. I don't look into the past. I only look for the future."
Image: India's national team coach Roshan Lal Thakur (2nd R) looks back during the welcoming ceremony for the team in the Olympic athlete's village
Photographs: Shamil Zhumatov/Reuters
Three athletes took part in the opening ceremony under the IOC flag
Thakur also said that IOC president Thomas Bach came at the Mountain Village in the morning and met the Indian athletes over breakfast.
"The IOC president came at the Mountain Village and had breakfast with us this morning. He interacted with us and it was a nice feeling," he said.
Indian tri-colour did not fly in the Sochi Games Village as the IOA was serving suspension when the Games started on February 7. But the IOC revoked the suspension on February 11, which cleared the way for the Indian flag being hoisted at the Games Village.
The three athletes took part in the opening ceremony under the IOC flag. Now they will also be able to take part in the closing ceremony on February 23 with the tri-colour in their hands.
Photographs: Quinn Rooney/Getty Images
'It was a special moment'
Himanshu said he had goosebumps witnessing the hoisting of the tri-colour.
"It was a special moment when you see your country's flag being raised in the Games Village. I was so thrilled that I had goosebumps. It was a wonderful feeling," said Himanshu who is competing in the men's Giant Slalom competition on February 19.
Keshavan had to take part as Independent Olympic Participant in his 37th finish in men's luge singles event as India was still under suspension when he competed on February 8 and 9.
Iqbal participated as an Indian athlete and finished a disappointing 85th out of 87 competitors in 15km classic run on February 14.
"The symbolic change has happened and now we need to see the real change," said Keshavan, who is unlikely to take part in the closing ceremony as he has reportedly booked a return ticket for Monday.
Image: Indian athletes Shiva Keshavan and Himanshu Thakur pose for a photo during the welcome ceremony and flag raising at the mountain athletes village
Photographs: Julian Finney/Getty Images