chapter
5 Pages

Prologue

At a time when historians around the world are increasingly recognizing global stories of Olympism as crucial to understand the working of societies, there has been no detailed history of India’s Olympic experience. This is a glaring anomaly for a country that became the first colonized nation to join the Olympic movement, one that dazzled the world with its early hockey wins and one whose Olympic history contains within its folds hitherto unknown chapters of the development of Indian nationalism and identity. So far, however, historians of Indian sport, or more specifically historians of Olympism, have met an insurmountable barrier as they sought to decipher the Indian story. To unlock the past and to achieve what Carr has outlined above, the historian needs to have at his or her disposal the best and most authentic of sources, that is, letters, artefacts, photographs, correspondence and private papers containing information on the history of the Games in India, from its inception in the early 20th century. Yet, until now, little material of this kind has been available in the public domain. All that we have had so far are memoirs of a few hockey players-Dhyan Chand, Aslam Sher Khan-and books written on the achievements of some rare Indians on the Olympic stage by sports writers.1 By themselves, these are invaluable, but they are not enough to piece together a comprehensive and complete history

In that sense, this monograph is unique because it is built on an as yet virgin archive of Indian history. For the first time we had unlimited access to the hitherto inaccessible ‘official’ archive of the International Olympic Committee at the IOC museum in Lausanne, Switzerland, an archive that contains virtually every piece of correspondence ever exchanged between Indian sports, administrators and the IOC, alongside much more. As such, it was like hoping to find Alladin’s lamp and finding not just the magic lamp, but Alladin’s cave as well. The treasure trove of material we uncovered in the vaults of the IOC forms the nuts and bolts of the story that we have pieced together.