India first took part in the Olympic Games in the year 1900, at Paris. Of course, India was not an independent country at that time, it was under British rule. It sent just one representative – an athlete named Norman Pritchard. And he won two silver medals!
After that, there was a long gap in India’s Olympic presence. In 1919, Sir Dorabji Tata, a businessman who loved sports, worked to get India to participate in the 1920 Olympics. He succeeded, and four athletes and two wrestlers took part in the Antwerp Summer Games. Since then, India has taken part in every Summer Olympics, and since 1964, it has taken part in the Winter Olympics too.
As a free nation, India first participated in the Olympic Games in 1948, and held up the Tricolour at the Opening Ceremony. The venue was London. These Games were special because they were being held after a gap of 12 years, after World War II, and there were other countries besides India participating as independent nations for the first time.
But it was truly special for India, because, for the first time in its history as an independent country, Jana Gana Mana, our national anthem, was played during the Games – and that too, for a Gold! Yes, India’s Hockey Team beat hosts Great Britain 4-0 to claim the Gold Medal at the 1948 Olympics.
Playing as a British colony, India had earlier won gold for hockey, but the team had included many talented players who, after the Partition, became part of the Pakistani team. The Indian team was not expected to do very well at the London Games, but Kishen Lal led his boys to victory! It was truly an unforgettable event.