‘Unforgettable feeling’

Misra with the Olympic champion Andy Murray.-

“Enriched by the London experience, I feel I have the required expertise for the future,” says S. P. Misra, who led the Indian tennis contingent to the 2012 Olympics. By A. Joseph Antony.

“To manage a crowd of 80,000, all it took was the presence of 16 horse mounted policemen and women,” said Indian tennis team leader and captain, S. P. Misra. “Not just at the inaugural ceremony, but right through the London Olympics, there was not a single untoward incident,” he added.

Leading a seven-member Indian tennis contingent to the Olympics was indeed memorable for the veteran, who, in his prime, played for pride rather than power or money. “Turning out in traditional Indian attire, with the head-gear and other paraphernalia, gave the whole episode an unforgettable feeling,” he said.

Well-versed with the rules of Davis Cup competition, he was a little diffident about going to the Olympics. “Enriched by the London experience, now that I have handled an assignment of this magnitude, I feel I have the required expertise for the future,” Misra said.

The dapper Davis Cup player, who made the second round of the main draw at Wimbledon in 1964, saw the All England Lawn Tennis Club (AELTC) quite transformed for the quadrennial extravaganza. “From the otherwise all pervasive white, it was painted pink this time, to match the colour of the 2012 Games. While the regular AELTC staff wasn’t around, replaced by volunteers, I found many familiar faces among the International Tennis Federation (ITF) officials,” he said.

Considering the aura around the Wimbledon championships, where tickets are sold out and jostling crowds are only to be expected, spectator attendance wasn’t very high for the Olympics. “Thanks to the status as captain, I had access to every part of Wimbledon, which is restricted otherwise only to the prescribed court, for which tickets are issued,” he said.

“It was exciting, to say the least, to be around with greats such as Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray (the eventual champion), Andy Roddick, Jo Wilfried Tsonga, Serena Williams and Arantxa Sanchez Vicario, with all of whom I had pictures taken. Each of these legends donned the colours of their respective countries with Federer in red and the Spaniards in yellow,” he noted.

Omega, as official timekeeper, made its presence felt everywhere, even replacing Rolex at Wimbledon. “The entire Games moved with clock-work precision. Every half an hour, there would be a bus to and from Wimbledon.

“There was no crowding or waiting at the dining area intended for 17,000 athletes, abounding in everything ranging from mineral water to fruits. Access to the food court was only with accreditation but goodies from varied cuisines were available 24/7. Not once did anything go wrong nor did I hear anyone complain,” observed Misra. With threat perceptions very high, security was understandably tight, with frequent X-ray checks at almost every entry point. “The overall atmosphere was, however, very friendly and relaxed. The 50-odd Indian pins I’d taken were exchanged with those from as many nations in next to no time, which can happen only at the Olympics perhaps,” he said nostalgically.

The only regret for Misra was not meeting Usain Bolt, who didn’t stay at the Games Village, and Michael Phelps, whose swimming schedule clashed with the Indian tennis team’s timings.