There are three athletes from India in Sochi for the Winter Olympics: Himanshu Thaku for alpine skiing, Nadeem Iqbal for cross country skiing and Shiva Keshavan for the luge.
But rather than marching into Friday's opening ceremonies bearing the Indian flag, the three men walked instead under the standard Olympic rings, confirming their status as “independent Olympic participants.”
An independent Olympic participant typically is an athlete who comes from a country that is either going through a political transition, or is unable to officially send athletes to the games due to diplomatic sanctions. During the previous 2012 Summer Olympics in London, an athlete from South Sudan competed independently under the Olympic flag as the young country was still being formed.
So why is India, an independent democracy since 1947, not allowed to show its flag this year?
India actually has been banned from Olympic activity since December 2012, when its Olympic association was banned by the International Olympic Committee.
The New York Times reported that India was suspended because the leaders of its Olympic association are primarily politicians, which is against Olympic rules. In order to prevent the suspension, those holding power in the government would need to step down, which did not happen in time.
The association needed to elect new leaders prior to the start of the Olympics in order to have their athletes recognized, but news website Quartz reports the group will not hold elections until Feb. 9.
The leaders of the Indian Olympic Association didn't seem too upset about the change, with acting President Vijay Kumar Malhotra telling India's Outdoor Journal that India's athletes “don't stand a chance of winning any medals.”
They may not have won any medals yet, but Shiva Keshavan turned some heads by making an impressive save following a nasty crash on the luge course during a practice run.