Sochi Olympics: Lack of funds might force Indian athletes to withdraw

If it wasn’t bad enough that India’s winter athletes have to compete under the Olympic flag in the 2014 Winter Olympics that start next month, it now appears that two of them may not be able to compete at all.

A story in the Economic Times reveals that India’s Sports Ministry has not yet provided the necessary funding for equipment and kit for alpine skier Himanshu Thakur and cross-country skier Nadeem Iqbal.

Representational Image. Reuters

Representational Image. Reuters

"We are still awaiting funds from the government because we do not have money to buy expensive clothing and equipment," Winter Games Federation of India (WGFI) president Surendra Singh told AFP.

According to Singh, winter sport equipment that meets Olympic standards is not available in India and therefore it must be imported. But without the funds, the federation has not even been able to order clothing for the two athletes.

With India due to be in Sochi on 4 February, time is running out for Thakur and Iqbal. If the money - roughly $7,500 per athlete – doesn’t come soon, India will be forced to withdraw them from the Games.

The one person who is safe is luger Shiva Kehsavan, who will be competing in his fifth Winter Games, because he has been able to raise money privately from his sponsors, though he has had his funding problems too.

While the reasons for the delay are not clear - Sports Ministry officials were not available for comment - this state of affairs is another blot on India's already poor sporting record. With this kind of lack of support, any dreams India has of becoming a sporting power will remain just that - dreams. And until officials wake up and realise they are there to serve the athletes and not the other way around, nothing will change.

You can read the full Economic Times story here.

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