Jul 25, 2008

India - When Dhyan Chand defied the Fuehrer

NEW DELHI: They had the gift to mesmerise opponents and crowd alike. Few know that Dhyan Chand and his teammates had the guts to defy the Fuehrer in his backyard.

A new book suggests that India was one of the only two contingents, America being the other, which refused to salute Adolf Hitler during the opening ceremony of the 1936 Berlin Olympics.

Olympics: The India Story by Boria Majumdar and Nalin Mehta sheds light on an obscure but glorious chapter of Indian sports and relives how a bunch of mostly unsuspecting, rustic Indians went on to make a stupendous political statement in a grand gesture of defiance.

The book narrates the opening ceremony of the Berlin Games, which was as much a Nazi propaganda vehicle as a sporting extravaganza. Hindenberg, the giant Zeppelin, whirred over the stadium as Hitler arrived for the guard of honour amid great fanfare.

The Indians, Dhyan Chand carrying the flag, were arguably the most dazzling contingent in their light blue turban and golden outfit, resembling a marriage procession, as one of the players later remarked.

"But this was no ordinary marriage procession. Its members were about to make a huge political statement by becoming one of the two contingents to refuse saluting Hitler," the book recalls.

The crowd watched in dismay as the Indians did not salute the Nazi. While their gesture went largely unnoticed back home, it created quite a stir in Germany, the book claims.

For the record, India crushed Hitler's Germany 8-1 in the final to complete their golden hat-trick in Olympics.

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