Commemorating India’s big Olympic moments

Soon after Independence, the Indian tricolour went up the flag pole after India outplayed Great Britain 4-0 in the 1948 Olympics hockey final. Recalling this and other such exploits as the nation celebrates its 74th Independence Day.

India’s 74th Independence Day in a joyous occasion. It’s time to pay a homage to all those who have made sacrifices for India’s freedom. The rule of law and democracy has succeeded. The idea of sports as a tool to sustain peace and calm in the continent was propounded by India during the London Olympic in 1948, just a year after the country achieved Independence. It was in London, and the Indian national anthem transmitted across the Great Britain. The British were given credit for the friendly atmosphere that generally prevailed in 1948, which is often compared to the favourable conditions of the Berlin Olympic Games in 1936. The 1948 Olympic Games were held soon after the destruction and turmoil of World War II.

The Indian tricolour went up the flag pole after India outplayed Great Britain 4-0 in the hockey final. Hockey gold in London was a golden moment for the Indian sport to firmly settle its identity. Great Britain did not participate in the Olympic hockey till 1948 London, by which time India was an independent nation. A brand new team came to play in London and one could see that the team was anxious before overcoming opponents. Indian team was the hockey powerhouse, winning six consecutive gold medals between 1928 and 1956. Nevertheless, the 1948 Olympic hockey final was very special because it was the first-ever competition between Britain and India.

The 1948 hockey victory became a source of devoted nationalist celebration for the Indian masses. Similarly, 19 September 2000 became a historic day not just for Indian weightlifting but for Indian sports as Karnam Malleshwari became the first Indian woman to win an Olympic medal.

Abhinav Bindra later changed the trend on 11 August 2008. An unprecedented pride filled the heart of Indian around the world upon hearing Jan Gan Mann is reverberating in China. There have been numerous players who have made India proud: Abhinav Bindra (Gold, 2008), Sushil Kumar (Bronze 2008, Silver 2012), Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore (Silver 2004), Vijay Kumar (Silver 2012), P.V. Sindhu (Silver 2016), Khashaba Dadasaheb Jadhav (Bronze 1952), Leander Paes (Bronze, 1996), Karnam Malleshwari (Bronze, 2000), MC MaryKom (Bronze 2012), Saina Nehwal (Bronze 2012), Gagan Narang (Bronze 2012), Yogeshwar Dutt (Bronze, 2012) and Sakshi Malik (Bronze (2016). Poram Banerjee (Athletics 1920), Lal Shah Bukhari (Hockey-1932); and Major Dhyanchand (Hockey-1936) were the Indian flag bearers in the pre-Independence Olympic games.

Legendary hockey player Balbir Singh Senior is the only athlete who has been given the honour on more than two occasions. In 1992 summer Olympics, Barcelona, Shiny Abraham Wilson became the first woman to carry the flag of India at the opening ceremony in the history of Olympics. The first female flag bearer at the Winter Olympics was Neha Ahuja, she bore the flag at the 2006 winter Olympics Torino. Moreover, Shiv Keshavan is the only Indian player who has been the flag bearer of Indian contingent thrice (2010 Vancouver, 2002 Salt Lake City and 1998-Nagano)

The writer is a Former Associate Professor, University of Delhi and consultant Limca Book of Records.