Former hockey player Ajitpal Singh has been appointed as the Chef de Mission for India's Olympic team at London 2012.
Ajitpal, 64, a three-time Olympian, who led India to its only World Cup victory in 1975, was unveiled by Vijay Kumar Malhotra, the acting President of the Indian Olympic Association (IOA). Ajitpal, a member of India's Olympic bronze medal winning teams at Mexico City in 1968 and Munich 1972, is the first Olympic medallist to be appointed to the role.
Malhotra said Ajitpal's choice was unanimous among the seven-man selection panel and "we have fulfilled yet another promise of giving the sportspersons a major role in the affairs of the Association".
IOA senior vice-presidents Tarlochan Singh and BP Basaya will be the delegates for London 2012, Malhotra also announced.It had been believed that both had wanted to be the Chef de Mission and Ajitpal was appointed after a compromise could not be reached between the two candidates.
Malhotra, however, claimed he was confident that Ajitpal will live up to the high expectations.
"It is not an ornamental post, it carries lot of responsibilities and Ajitpal as a leader will have to play the role which will bring glory to the country," said Malhotra.
"IOA members have silenced their critics once again who always used to say that athletes are being ignored in the functioning of the sports bodies.
"We have set the trend, and I hope it will continue."
IOA secretary general Randhir Singh called the decision to appoint Ajitpal (pictured with the World Cup in 1975), a former policeman, a historic decision.
"An Olympic medal-winner will be leading the Indian contingent in the Olympics for the first time," he said.
The role of India's Chef de Mission is set to be more high-profile than ever thanks to the ongoing role over Dow Chemical's sponsorship of the Olympics, which has seen the IOA embroiled in a row over whether they should boycott the Games.
But Ajitpal preferred to concentrate on the prospect of leading India to its most successful ever Olympic performance.
The team will be seeking to improve on their performance in Beijing four years ago when they won three medals, including the country's first-ever individual gold thanks to shooter Abhinav Bindra in the men's 10 metre air rifle event.
"I am grateful to the IOA Acting President and other members who have reposed faith in me," said Ajitpal.
"I am truly humbled. I will try my best to live up to the expectations.
"I am confident that India will win more medals this time, because the qualified sportspersons are now focused to give their best for the country.
"I know how the sportspersons feel after day's hectic schedule in the Olympics.
"Winning and losing is part of the Game.
"Though I will be there for the sportspersons but I will also be a strict disciplinarian."
Source: Duncan Mackay Inside the Rings
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