Today News Online Service
Patiala, May 27
The Punjab Government renamed the Mohali International Hockey Stadium after legendary hockey player Balbir Singh Sr on his first death anniversary — but the authorities have failed to recover his medals and blazer, which were stolen years ago.
An FIR in this matter is pending with Patiala police, but the investigation seems to have reached a dead end and there is no trace of the legend’s stolen possessions or the accused.
“I might not see my blazer and medals again but I am still happy… I wish I am able to see them again in my lifetime. I had worked really hard in the field to earn them,” the three-time Olympics gold medallist, who died at age 96 on May 25, 2020, had told The Tribune in 2018.
Unfortunately, the investigating agencies were not able to fulfil his last wish in his lifetime — and one year after he passed away, the search has remained unproductive. While the police probe to locate the memorabilia is ongoing, the search has stretched a little too far.
In 2018, long after the prized memorabilia was donated by the legendary Olympian to the Sports Authority of India (SAI)-run Netaji Subhas National Institute of Sports, the items were reported missing. The Patiala police had registered an FIR pertaining to the theft, with NIS officials acknowledging that the “blazer of the hockey star may have been missing/stolen”.
Other than his Olympics medals and the Padma Shri award, his Melbourne Olympics blazer (when he was the captain), 36 medals, including the Tokyo Asiad (1958) silver, and over 100 rare pictures were donated by Balbir Singh, never to be seen again. He had donated his medals and blazer to then SAI secretary in 1985 for display at a proposed sports museum in New Delhi.
Enquiries before the start of the London Olympics in 2012 revealed that SAI had no clue where the memorabilia was.
Civil Lines SHO Gurpreet Singh Bhinder said no recoveries have been made till now, though the matter is still under investigation.
“It took NIS officials years to lodge a formal complaint and another year for the cops to register an FIR. I will not be surprised if the stolen items come in the international market and are up for sale in an auction,” said a top cop who initially probed the matter.