Logo of the 1951 Asian Games

Introduction:
The 1951 Asian Games, also known as the First Asian Games, marked a historic moment in the world of sports. Held in New Delhi, India, from March 4th to March 11th, this multi-sport event brought together 11 Asian nations, with 489 athletes participating in 57 events across eight different sports disciplines. In this blog post, we will take a closer look at the games, the players, and the events that made the 1951 Asian Games a remarkable chapter in Asian sports history.

1951 Asian Games
Host cityNew Delhi India
MottoPlay the game in the spirit of the game
Nations11
Athletes489
Events57
Opening4 March 1951
Closing11 March 1951
Opened byRajendra Prasad
President of India (1950–1962)
Athlete’s OathBaldev Singh
Torch lighterDalip Singh Grewal 
Main venueMajor Dhyan Chand National Stadium
1951 Asian Games

The Spirit of the Games:
The motto of the 1951 Asian Games was “Play the game in the spirit of the game,” embodying the essence of sportsmanship and fair play. The event was the successor to the Far Eastern Games and marked the revival of the Western Asiatic Games.

Jawaharlal Nehru’s inspiring words in the 1951 Asian Games:

Jawaharlal Nehru’s address at the opening ceremony of the First Asian Games left a profound impact on the event and its participants. It was from his speech that the organizers adopted the Games’ official motto: “Play the game, in the spirit of the game.”

Dr. Rajendra Prasad’s Message of Friendship and Peace:

In addition to Nehru’s inspiring words, Dr. Rajendra Prasad said, ” THE FIRST ASIAN GAMES WILL PROMOTE THE REALIZATION OF UNDERSTANDING AND FRIENDSHIP AMONG ALL NATIONS AND WILL START A PROCESS WHICH, AS TIME PASSES, WILL GO ON CEMENTING THE FRIENDLY TIES BETWEEN THE PEOPLES OF ASIA.”

Participating Nations:
The Games saw the participation of 11 Asian National Olympic Committees (NOCs). Notably, the Soviet Union and Vietnam were absent due to their political systems at the time. The countries that joined in the spirit of competition and unity were:

  1. Afghanistan
  2. Burma
  3. Ceylon
  4. India
  5. Indonesia
  6. Iran
  7. Japan
  8. Nepal
  9. Philippines
  10. Singapore
  11. Thailand

Venues:
The National Stadium, later renamed Irwin Amphitheater, served as the primary venue for all events. This iconic stadium, designed by Anthony S. DeMello, underwent renovations to accommodate the various sports. Swimming and water polo events were held at an adjacent swimming pool within the complex.

The Grand Opening:
On March 4th, 1951, the First Asian Games officially commenced with a grand opening ceremony. Distinguished guests, including India’s first President Rajendra Prasad and first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, witnessed the event. A 31-gun salute honored the participants and guests.

The highlight of the ceremony was Prime Minister Nehru’s speech, from which the official Games motto, “Play the game, in the spirit of the game,” was adopted. Athletes from the participating countries marched alphabetically, with India, as the host nation, entering last. The cauldron was lit by Dalip Singh, a 1924 Olympian of India, using the Asian Games torch.

Medal Table:
The 1951 Asian Games featured intense competition, with Japan emerging as the leading nation in both gold and overall medals. Here’s the medal table in tabular form:

RankNationGoldSilverBronzeTotal
1Japan (JPN)24211560
2India (IND)*15162051
3Iran (IRN)86216
4Singapore57214
5Philippines56819
6Ceylon (CEY)0101
7Indonesia0055
8Burma0033
Totals (8 entries)5757 55 169

Conclusion:
The 1951 Asian Games in New Delhi, India, not only showcased exceptional athletic talent but also emphasized the importance of unity and sportsmanship among Asian nations. Despite the political challenges of the time, the Games brought together countries from diverse backgrounds, fostering a spirit of healthy competition and camaraderie. This historic event laid the foundation for future editions of the Asian Games, cementing its place as a celebration of Asian sports excellence.

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