Sport shows the power to bind peoples, yet again

There is an unmistakable beauty to India-Pakistan sporting contests, especially those held in these parts under the glare of millions. There is a great deal of emotional outpouring around these contests – and I dare say, much more than say most Australia-England or Australia-New Zealand battles.

Sunday offered those in the Commonwealth’s sports fraternity who have never experienced the needle of India-Pakistan matches the chance to understand their beauty. There was a freestyle final featuring Pakistan’s Mohammad Inam and the home favourite Anuj Kumar in the newly-built wrestling stadium in the India Gandhi Indoor Sport Complex. Inam rallied from 2-3 in the first round to pick up a point each in the next two rounds and win gold.

And, just in case you did not know, there was this small matter of a hockey match with much at stake at the Maj. Dhyan Chand National Stadium. For the uninitiated, an India-Pakistan hockey game causes intense emotions – just as cricket games do. Some would go to the extent of saying that this one match matters the most to them.

It seemed that everyone in town, big and small, wanted to be at the Dhyan Chand National Stadium on Sunday evening. However, many realised that they had made the mistake of not booking their seats early enough when they were told that tickets for this game were the first event to be sold out.  For not a few, this game was the most important fixture of Delhi 2010.

I am sure if you were anywhere near the venue you could have reached out and felt the electricity in the air as India and Pakistan’s hockey teams fought for the semifinal berth behind world champion Australia in pool A. To the delight of the home crowd, India won a high pressure game 7-4 to spark immediate celebrations as the team set up a semifinal with England.

Away from the actual playing fields, the Pakistan Olympic Association has seen itself as joint host with the Indian Olympic Association from the time the latter’s bid to host the Games in Delhi gathered pace. It lent its shoulders to the campaign to get this celebration of sport to the sub-continent. And, it stood by the Organising Committee through thick and thin.

The seemingly paradoxical coexistence of such brotherhood and intense rivalry makes the sporting relations between the neighbours such a wonderful sociological study. It also proves that there is no greater emotional force than sport to break physical barriers. And this got highlighted at the opening ceremony on October 3 when Pakistan received the loudest cheers after India during the athletes’ parade.

Yes, it is a fact that, more often than not, sport binds people like little else.