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1964 - India's first tyrst with the Olympic flame

June 07, 2004 10:12 IST

As the capital gears to receive the Olympic torch with much fanfare on June 10, some old timers recollect the flame's first journey through India in 1964.

"There were no TV channels and no live coverage, so the event passed off without much fanfare, with only Olympic enthusiasts showing interest," recollects renowned commentator Jasdev Singh and the first Indian to receive the Olympic order.

He recollects the months prior to the 1964 Olympic Games when the flame touched the Indian soil, being flown in by a Japanese aircraft.

The event is also mentioned in the book The Story of Olympics written by the legendary commentator of yesteryears Melville de Mellow. The book describes the events prior to the 1964 Tokyo Olympics.

"Then arrived the emotion-charged moment of the Games - the arrival of the Olympic torch. On its way to Tokyo, it made ceremonial stops at Istanbul, Ankara, Beirut, Damascus, Baghdad, Tehran, Kabul, Lahore, New Delhi, Kathmandu.....," says the book.

"There are still a few people like me who remember the event, like the grand old man of Indian sports T D Ranga Ramanujan. He was one among those who received the Olympic Flame when it reached New Delhi. He has attended all Olympic Games since 1960 as a guest of the Olympics organising committee," recalls Singh.

"I was present at the National Stadium during the arrival of the Olympic flame. It was a very simple function attended only by sportsmen, trainees and office bearers of the Indian Olympic Association," says Ramanujam, correcting the misconception, which most people have that the torch is coming to India for the first time.

"The torch remained at the National Stadium for a few hours and was then taken to Dhaka, where it stayed overnight. It was very much unlike the grand pageantry that ones gets to see these days," he says.

India's preparations this time to receive the Olympic flame offer a sharp contrast to the simple event described by Ramanujam.

There will be around 105 torch bearers when the flame crisscrosses Delhi on June 10. Once here, it will travel from the Qutub Minar to Red Fort via Humayun's tomb and India Gate.

Among those who will carry the torch are cricketers Rahul Dravid, Anil Kumble, Kapil Dev and Irfan Pathan, tennis player Mahesh Bhupati, football star Bhaichung Bhutia and musicians Amaan and Ayaan Ali Bangash.

The relay of torch will conclude at National Stadium with performances by Bollywood musicians Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy, lyricist Gulzar, singer Kavita Krishnamurthy and choreographer Shiamak Davar.

The torch is a symbol of all principles the games stand for and Singh and Ramanujam hope that when the flame reaches New Delhi on June 10, renting the air with the slogan Pass the Flame, Unite the World, the bond of friendship, brotherhood and peace would become stronger.
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