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India@75

1951: First Asian Games held in New Delhi

Print edition : Aug 25, 2022 T+T-

1951: First Asian Games held in New Delhi

President Rajendra Prasad inaugurated the Games in New Delhi. 

President Rajendra Prasad inaugurated the Games in New Delhi.  | Photo Credit: The Hindu Archives

India also performed admirably on the field, coming second in the overall medal tally.

In March 1951, India played host to the first Asian Games. It was a remarkable achievement for a country that had won its freedom from colonial rule less than three years ago and was still recovering from the violence and horror that accompanied the country’s partition. Not only did India successfully host what is considered the second-largest multi-sport event in the world after the Olympics, it also performed admirably in the sporting events, coming second in the overall medal tally.

The Games were originally scheduled to take place in 1950, but were postponed by a year. On March 4, 1951, President Rajendra Prasad opened the Asian Games at the Dhyan Chand National Stadium in Delhi. A total of 489 athletes representing 11 nations took part in 57 events across eight sports. Japan topped the medals tally, winning 60 medals, including 24 gold, while India came second with 51 medals, including 15 gold and 20 bronze. This is the highest ranking India has ever achieved in the Asian Games. The closest it came again was in the 1962 Games at Jakarta, when it came third in the overall medal tally.

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The idea of a sporting event for Asian countries was first discussed at the Asian Relations Conference in New Delhi in 1947, just before Independence. The following year, the International Olympic Committee proposed to revive the Far Eastern Championship Games, a biennial event that been held between 1913 and 1934. Guru Dutt Sondhi, the Indian International Olympic Committee (IOC) representative, suggested a more inclusive Games.

The Asian Games Federation was established on February 13, 1949, and continued until 1981, when it was replaced by the Olympic Council of Asia. An Organising Committee was formed under the leadership of Yadavindra Singh, the last ruling Maharaja of Patiala and president of the Indian Olympic Association. The secretary was Anthony Stanislaus de Mello, one of the founders of the Board of Control for Cricket in India.

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The logo for the first Asian Games was a red sun with a white circle in the middle; 11 rings, one for each participating nation, formed a semicircle under the sun.