Three-time Olympian and former captain of the Indian hockey team Ajit Pal Singh was today named as India's Chef-de-Mission for the London Olympic Games, bringing and end to the wranglings for the post within the IOA.
The seven-member committee, which was former to appoint the Che-de-Mission for the July 27-August 12 Games, unanimously selected the former hockey star to head the Indian contingent in the mega-event in London.
Ajit Pal Singh. Pic/AFP
It is for the first time ever that a sportsperson has been given the honour to head a contingent in the Olympic Games.
Earlier, only sports administrators most of whom were also politicians, were considered for the post. Ajit Pal's nomination for the coveted post came as a surprise as he was not even in the picture, with IOA vice-president Tarlochan Singh and Weightlifting Federation of India chief B P Baishya in the fray. Both Tarlochan and Baishya will, however, go to London as delegate and observer, as the IOA opted to work out a compromise formula.
"The committee felt that an Olympian should be the Chef-de-Mission of the Indian contingent and the committee was unanimous in selecting Ajit Pal Singh. He is a three-time Olympian and a captain of the Indian hockey team," IOA acting-president V K Malhotra told PTI here.
With less than four months to go for the Games, the IOA has finally named its Chef-de-Mission. Ajit Pal's name came into the fore only because the IOA's panel could not come to a conclusion over the selection of Tarlochan and Baishya, both of whom have support within in the IOA hierarchy.
While Tarlochan is said to have the backing of acting-president Malhotra, Baishya was close to Secretary-General Randhir Singh. Besides Malhotra and Randhir, the seven-member committee included Jagdish Tytler, Anil Khanna, Abhay Chautala, Akhilesh Das and G Raghunathan.
Baishya was enjoying a 4-3 majority after the same members had earlier, in October last year, recommended Baishya's name, but that was turned down by Malhotra who asked them to do the same job again.
Born on April 5, 1947 in Sansarpur, Punjab, Ajit Pal captained India for quite a while and was honoured with the Arjuna Award in 1972. Considered to be one of the most charismatic center halves in his heydays, Ajit Pal represented India in three Olympics from 1968 to 1976, and also led the country to a historic triumph in the 1975 World Cup in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
He was part of the teams which won the bronze medals in the 1968 Games in Mexico City and the 1972 edition in Munich. Ajit Pal was also part of the Asian All-Star team in 1974.