Olympics-IOC welcomes India back, opens cash pipeline
By Ossian Shine and Amlan Chakraborty
SOCHI, Russia/NEW DELHI, Feb 11 (Reuters) - India's return to the Olympic fold switches on a multi-million-dollar pipeline of funds and stokes the giant nation's sporting ambitions.
The Indian Olympic Association (IOA) had been ostracised from the Olympic movement for the past 14 months -- although three Indian athletes have been competing at the current Sochi Games under the Olympic flag.
The IOA's crime had been to hold a 2012 election in which a corruption-tainted official was voted in as secretary general.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) baulked, saying its rules on governance had been flouted.
The IOC slapped on the suspension, and turned the cash tap off after the elected officials refused to budge.
"It was a big blow," Indian IOC member Randhir Singh told Reuters on Tuesday.
A little over a year later, India has got its house back in order. Fresh elections were held and a new IOA leadership appointed on Sunday.
Happy that the prerequisite to ban any tainted officials from elections had been fully met, the IOC welcomed back India to the top table of world sport.
"It's great news for the Indian athletes," said Singh.
The readmittance means India's athletes will now be able to march behind the Indian flag at the closing ceremony of the Sochi Winter Games.
More importantly, though, it turns on IOC funds worth millions of dollars which may finally help fulfill the country's huge potential.
MIRED IN NOSTALGIA
For years, come Games-time, this 1.2 billion-strong cricket-crazy nation has found itself mired in nostalgia over its hockey heyday which yielded eight Olympic gold medals from 1928-1980.
London 2012 had seemed to suggest an upturn in fortunes when the Indian team won two silver and four bronze medals, equalling their collective tally in the previous seven Olympic campaigns.
But the post-London celebration had yet to die down when the IOA was banned, plunging Indian sport into crisis once more.
It was a dark year.
"India had just started winning Olympic medals when suddenly this happened," Singh said.