Sports Authority misplaces former India captain's 1956 Melbourne Olympics blazer & 1958 Tokyo Asiad silver medal
Chandigarh: A piece of Indian hockey's golden history seems to be lost for good courtesy the apathy of Sports Authority of India (SAI) officials, who have no clue about the priceless memorabilia donated way back in 1985 by legendary Olympian Balbir Singh Sr.
India's three-time field hockey Olympic gold medallist Balbir Singh poses with the stick of Indian hockey legend Major Dhyan Chand Singh with which Dhyan Chand played in the 1936 Berlin Olympics final, in Chandigarh on February 6, 2009. Dhyan Chand was a member of the Indian hockey team in the 1928, 1932 and 1936 Olympic Games. Pic/AFP
The donated items, meant for a proposed museum which never came about, included an Olympic blazer, medals and rare pictures. The 91-year-old triple Olympic gold-medallist maintains that in 1985, he had donated his medals and memorabilia to the then SAI Secretary on being told that they would be displayed in a show window at the then proposed National Sports Museum.
Balbir Sr said he was later told that the Museum was to be opened in Delhi to inspire the youth of the nation. But an enquiry about the items before the 2012 London Olympics at the request of The Olympic Museum revealed that SAI officials were clueless about their whereabouts.
Nearly a year back, Union Sports Minister Sarbananda Sonowal had visited Balbir Singh Sr at his residence in Chandigarh and SAI officials, while claiming ignorance about the entire matter, had promised a thorough enquiry.
Meanwhile, a group of lawyers from the Punjab and Haryana High Court came carried out RTI campaigns in the SAI offices of SAI in New Delhi and the National Institute of Sports (NIS), Patiala, which revealed some astonishing facts.
India captain Balbir Singh on the podium at the Melbourne Olympics in 1956. Pic/Getty Images
The RTI replies of these authorities revealed shocking mismatch of statements, but more importantly, also an affirmation of the fact that the articles were indeed received by these authorities from Balbir Singh Sr.
Balbir Sr had said that with the exception of his Olympic medals and the Padma Shri award, everything else — including his captain's Melbourne Olympic blazer, 36 medals including Tokyo Asiad (1958) silver, and over 100 rare photographs — were among the items to have been donated by the gold medal winner of London (1948), Helsinki (1952) and Melbourne (1956) Olympics.
According to Balbir's maternal grandson, Kabir Bhomia, the International Olympic Committee's Olympic Museum wanted the Melbourne Games blazer to be a part of the official London Olympics exhibition where he was the only Indian and the only Hockey player chosen among 16 icons across all participants in all disciplines in 116 years of the modern Olympics era.
"That is when we contacted SAI to get that blazer as Nanaji (Balbir Sr) had nothing with him in London apart from Olympic medals. But SAI officials said that they didn't know about the whereabouts of the treasure," Kabir said.