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These athletes represented the nation in the biggest sporting event on the planet.
More than 200 countries take part and compete in over 33 different sports at the Olympic Games. But before the beginning of this mega event, all the athletes participate in the opening ceremony.
The ceremony includes artistic programmes, parade of nations, lighting the Olympic flame and release of Doves. The parade of nations is a key part of these ceremonies. Most of the athletes enter the stadium as part of the parade, separated by the country they represent. Each nation nominates a flagbearer for this occasion.
India have been participating in the Olympics for a long time now. There have been several Indian flagbearers at the Olympic Games. It all started in 1920 when India sent their first Olympic team. Between 1920 to 2016, many athletes have participated and represented India at the Olympics. However, only a few have had the opportunity to be on the list of Indian flagbearers at the quadrennial event.
Let’s take a look at the Indian flagbearers at the Olympics so far.
Purma Banerjee (1920)
Purma Banerjee is the first of many Indian flagbearers at the Olympic Games. In 1920, when India sent their first team to Belgium, it only comprised six people, four athletes and two wrestlers. Among those six, Purma Banerjee had the chance to represent the nation, by holding the national flag. Although the team did not do well and was not able to secure any medal, it surely marked the presence of India in the Games.
Lal Shah Bhokhari (1932)
India sent their hockey team along with four athletes and a swimmer to Los Angeles Olympics in 1932. This time, the honour to be the flagbearer was given to Lal Shah Bhokhari, who was the captain of the hockey team at that time. India managed to secure gold in hockey at the Los Angeles Olympics.
Major Dhyan Chand (1936)
One of the greatest hockey players of all time, Major Dhyan Chand also got the opportunity to be on the list of Indian flagbearers at the Olympics. the Major, who had already won two gold medals in Hockey at the Olympics, led the Indian contingent in the 1936 Olympic Games held in Germany. In this Olympics, India defeated Germany in the finals of the hockey to secure their third gold.
Tallimerain Ao (1948)
1948 London Olympics was the first time when India was competing as an independent nation at Olympics. This time, India competed in over 10 sports in 39 events. The opportunity to be the flagbearer was given to Tallimerain Ao, a football player. It was also the first instance when India competed in football at the Olympics.
Balbir Singh Sr. (1952)
Indian women participated at the Olympics for the first time in 1952. During Helsinki Olympics, the Indian team consisted of 60 men and four women, who participated in 42 events in 11 sports. This time Balbir Singh Sr. got a chance to be in the great company of Indian flagbearers at the Olympics.
Balbir Singh Sr. (1956)
In 1956 Melbourne Olympics, Balbir Singh Sr. once again had the opportunity to be the flagbearer for the country. It was the first instance when a player got the opportunity to be India’s flagbearer twice. The Indian team also registered their sixth gold in hockey at Olympics without conceding a single goal.
Gurbachan Singh Randhawa (1964)
The Indian squad was led by the Gurbachan Singh Randhawa in the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. India competed in 42 events across eight sports, winning the gold medal in hockey once again.
D.N. Devine Jones (1972)
Indian boxer D.N. Devine Jones is also on the list of India’s flagbearers at the Olympics. He was provided with the chance to be the flagbearer of the nation in the 1972 Olympics in Munich.
Zafar Iqbal (1984)
The 1984 Olympic Games were held in Los Angeles where Zafar Iqbal, a hockey player, was given the break to be the head of the Indian team. The Indian team did not win a single medal this time. But, it was a breakthrough time for the Indian women at Olympics. Stars like P.T. Usha and Shiny Abraham-Wilson performed exceptionally well in these Games.
Kartar Dhillon Singh (1988)
Wrestler Kartar Dhillon Singh was the Indian flagbearer at the 1988 Olympics. It took place in South Korea’s capital Seoul. India did not win a single medal in the competition.
Shiny Abraham-Wilson (1992)
The 1992 Olympics were held in Barcelona, Spain. This time the responsibility to head the Indian team was given to star Olympian Shiny Abraham-Wilson. She was elated after getting the opportunity to be on the list of Indian flagbearers at the Olympics.
Pargat Singh (1996)
The opportunity to be the flagbearer of India was given to Pargat Singh at the Atlanta Olympics. In that edition, India won their first medal in an individual event after 44 years when Leander Paes clinched a bronze medal in tennis.
Leander Paes (2000)
Leander Paes joined the elite company of Indian flagbearers at the Olympic Games in 2000. He was the face of the Indian contingent and lead them at the Sydney Olympics.
Anju Bobby George (2004)
India had sent a big contingent for Athens Olympics. A total of 73 athletes including 28 women participated in the event. This time, Anju Bobby George received the opportunity to join the company of the Indian flagbearers at the Olympics. Also, India secured their first medal in shooting when Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore won a silver medal.
Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore (2008)
In Beijing Olympics, Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore led the Indian side in the opening ceremony. Indian secured three medals in three different sports at 2008 Olympic Games. Abhinav Bindra, Vijendra Singh and Sushil Kumar won medals for India.
Sushil Kumar (2012)
The opportunity of being the Indian flagbearer was provided to Sushil Kumar at the London Olympics. It was India’s most successful Olympic campaign. India managed to secure six medals in 2012 – two silver and four bronze in different sports.
Abhinav Bindra (2016)
Abhinav Bindra led the Indian side at the Rio Olympics. A total of 117 Indian athletes participated in these Games. However, the Indian side could only manage to win two medals.
Mary Kom and Manpreet Singh (2020)
in the upcoming Olympic Games, MC Mary Kom and Manpreet Singh will be India’s flagbearers. From Tokyo Olympics, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has mandated to select two flagbearers for the opening ceremony, one of each gender.