NEW DELHI, June 24 (PTI): In a first such initiative, Hockey India (HI) today felicitated 34 yesteryear stars of the game with a one-time benefit of Rs two lakhs each for winning gold medals in the previous Olympic Games.
The grand felicitation-cum-Olympic team send-off ceremony was be held at a city hotel today, where HI provided a common platform for “Golden Greats” of Indian hockey to share their experiences with the present players.
Out of the 34 living Olympians to have received the one-time monetary benefit from the HI coffers, 26 were present on the occasion.
The notable Olympic gold medal winners who were present on the occasion were Leslie Claudius (1948 London, 1952 Helsinki and 1956 Melbourne), Keshav Dutt (1948 London, 1952 Helsinki, Jaswant Rajput (1948 London, 1952 Helsinki), Raghbir Lal (1948 London, 1956 London) and Harpal Kaushik (1956 Melbourne, 1964 Tokyo and silver in 1960 Rome) among others.
SM Ali Syed, Charanjit Singh, Nandy Singh and Balbir Singh Senior gave the function a miss due to health reasons while A S Rana, Allan Sheofield, Darshan Singh and Gurdev Singh were out of the country.
During the function, which was also attended by BJP leader Arun Jaitley, Sports Minister Ajay Maken and Indian Olympic Association acting president V K Malhotra among others, HI secretary general Narinder Batra said in future national federation will also honour the Asiad and World Cup winning teams.
Even though it came late, all the former players seemed overwhelmed by the honour bestowed on them for their achievements.
Member of the 1980 Moscow gold medal-winning team, MM Somaya lauded HI for the initiative.
“It was wonderful to have received the honour after so many years. By this function, HI provided us a platform to meet old friends and former team-mates,” he said.
Somaya’s Moscow Olympics team-mate Zafar Iqbal expressed similar views.