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India's Helsinki Olympians feted

Last updated on: October 14, 2003 18:43 IST

Their shoulders may have drooped over the years but the pride of being an Olympian was big enough to ensure a spring in the steps of those who represented India at the Helsinki Olympics, five years after Independence.

Former Test captain Bishen Singh Bedi chats with some of the OlympiansComing together at the Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium in Delhi, after a gap of almost four decades, representatives of India's the 87-member contingent who had gathered to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Helsinki Games, had a lot of tales to tell. A few of them also proudly displayed the blazers they wore during then.

"It is a nostalgic moment for all of us. The chartered flight trip to Copenhegan [Denmark] for acclimatization and many other events are fresh in our minds," Commander G Nandi Singh, a member of the Indian hockey team which won its fifth consecutive Olympic gold medal, said.

The players and family members of some of the deceased Olympians were felicitated by Sports Minister Vikram Verma on the occasion of the Helsinki Games' 50th anniversary.

Those present at the function, organised by the Embassy of Finland, included hockey players Keshava Dutt, Raghbir Lal Sharma; gymnasts Khushi Ram and Vir Singh; weightlifter Eswara Kamieni; footballers Chandan Singh Rawat and Sailen Manna, and cyclists Netai Chand Bysack and Tarit Kumar Sett.

The mementos for India's first individual Olympics medal winner Khashaba Jadhav, wrestlers Shrirang Jadhav and Manikrao Mangave were accepted by their family members.

Finland Ambassabor Glen Lindholm said an exhibition showcasing the moments of the Games and highlighting India's participation will travel around the globe and reach the Scandanavian nation by end of next year.

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"We hope the exhibition will not only bring back old memories, but also will create interest in sports in general and pave way for increased cooperation between the world of sports in Finland and India," he said.

The exhibition will be open for general public till Thursday at the National stadium.

Pointing out that the 1952 Olympics was the "last Olympics when sports was not commercialised and sportsman spirit reigned high, Vikram Verma said this event would inspire budding players to reach even greater heights in the sporting world.

The sports minister said consistent international exposure and scientific training within and outside the country are vital for success in the modern and competitive world of sports, and called upon various sectors of society to join hands and contribute towards making sports a way of life in India.

A total of 4,925 athletes from 69 nations participated in the 25th Olympic Games, which had 149 medals at stake. India finished a creditable 26th, winning one gold and a bronze medal while United States topped the standings with 40 gold medals.

Photograph: Ranjan Basu/Saab Press

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