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India pays golden tribute to first Olympic hockey win

Independent India defeated Great Britain 4-0 at the Wembley in 1948 Source: timesnownews.com/AP

Iconic landmarks across the country were bathed in golden light to mark 70 years since India’s first Olympic gold in hockey as an independent country.

Seventy years ago, on August 12th 1948, the Indian Hockey team won gold at the London Olympics, and the recently independent nation proudly asserted it's national glory in the world of sport. 

The prestige was immense. The Indians had clinched their first major victory at an international sporting event following independence - and they had defeated not just any team, but Great Britain - the country that had ruled over India for nearly 200 years. To make the victory sweeter, the Indian hockey team beat the British on their home turf.

The significance wasn’t lost on anyone then, and the golden moment in Indian sporting history continues to stay close to the hearts of people.

And enlivening the spirit this year, seven of the country’s most iconic landmarks were illuminated in golden light as a tribute to the 70th anniversary of the epochal day that marked India’s presence on the global atlas of sports.

                                  

jaipur
The Statue Circle in Jaipur turns gold to mark 70 years since independent India win its first hockey gold
Supplied
   
kanpur
JK Temple in Kanpur marks 70 years since independent India win its first hockey gold
Supplied
 

The event was announced by Bollywood star Akshay Kumar who’s just released film ‘Gold’ pans around an Indian Hockey team manager’s aspirations to play for a free country and how he trains the depleted team to win an Olympic gold, while battling his personal demons.

The star also shared pictures of landmarks at Bradford city in England which were also lit as part of the tribute to India’s sporting glory and to celebrate the release of Mr Kumar’s film, a large chunk of which was shot in the English county.

Meanwhile, in the northern state of Punjab, hockey legend Balbir Singh Sr. who played a crucial role in steering India towards victory 70 years ago, reminisced about the “greatest day in Independent India's sporting history" at a commemorative ceremony in Chandigarh.

Balbir Singh
Hockey legend Balbir Singh Sr. (L) with star shooter Abhinav Bindra (R)
Twitter

"As our national anthem was being played and the tri-colour was going up, I felt that I too was flying with the flag,” the 94-year triple gold medallist told PTI.

"I still remember that before the match started, the Wembley stadium was reverberating with the noise of English fans. As we took an early lead and later on pumped another goal, after the halftime, some English fans started rooting for India, saying make it half a dozen goals," he fondly remembered.

The iconic striker who was not the first choice for a centre-forward in the final eleven for the 1948 squad, ended up scoring two goals for the team, ensuring the team's victory and a permanent place for himself in the team.

In the following years, Mr Singh went on to script two major Olympic wins for India at Helsinki in 1952 where he scored five goals and at Melbourne in 1956.

Balwinder SINGH sr
Indian hockey team led by Balbir Singh Sr. at Melbourne Olympics in 1956
twitter/Balbir Singh Sr.

To date, his world record for scoring the most number of goals by any individual in the men’s hockey Olympic final remains unconquered.

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