The seven-member committee, which was formed to appoint the Chef-de-Mission for the July 27-August 12 Games, “unanimously” selected the former hockey star to head the Indian contingent in the London Olympic Games.
Making the announcement IOA Acting President Vijay Kumar Malhotra said Senior Vice Presidents Tarlochan Singh and B P Baishya, both of whom were in the fray for the post, will be the IOA's delegates for the Games.
“We have fulfilled yet another promise of giving the sportspersons a major role in the affairs of the Association,” Malhotra said.
He said he was confident that Ajitpal, 65, will live up to the high expectations, and will be a true ambassador of the country.
“It is not an ornamental post, it carries lot of responsibilities and Ajitpal as a leader will have to play the role which will bring glory to the country,” he added.
Malhotra also added that by appointing a sportsperson as Chef-de-Mission the “IOA members have silenced their critics once again who always used to say that athletes are being ignored in the functioning of the sports bodies”.
“We have set the trend, and I hope it will continue,” the acting president said.
IOA Secretary General Randhir Singh called it a historic decision, saying “an Olympic medal winner will be leading the Indian contingent in the Olympics for the first time”.
Malhotra further added that “before this also another far reaching decision was taken when IOA decided to share all the sponsors money with the qualified sportspersons”.
Giving his reaction, Ajitpal, who is holidaying in Goa, said he was humbled by the decision of the IOA.
“I am grateful to the IOA Acting President and other members who have reposed faith in me. I am humbled. I will try my best to live up to the expectations,” Ajit Pal said.
“I am confident that India will win more medals this time, because the qualified sportspersons are now focused to give their best for the country,” he added.
Ajit Pal's nomination for the coveted post came as a surprise as he was not even in the picture, with IOA vice-president Tarlochan and Weightlifting Federation of India chief Baishya in the fray.
Both Tarlochan and Baishya will, however, go to London as delegate and observer, as the IOA opted to work out a compromise formula.
Ajit Pal's name came into the fore only because the IOA's panel could not come to a conclusion over the selection of Tarlochan and Baishya, both of whom have support within in the IOA hierarchy.
While Tarlochan is said to have the backing of Malhotra, Baishya was close to Randhir.
Besides Malhotra and Randhir, the committee included Jagdish Tytler, Anil Khanna, Abhay Chautala, Akhilesh Das and G Raghunathan.
Baishya was enjoying a 4-3 majority after the same members had earlier, in October last year, recommended Baishya's name, but that was turned down by Malhotra who asked them to do the same job again.
Born on April 5, 1947 in Sansarpur, Punjab, Ajit Pal captained India for quite a while and was honoured with the Arjuna Award in 1972.
Considered to be one of the most charismatic center halves in his heydays, Ajit Pal represented India in three Olympics from 1968 to 1976, and also led the country to a historic triumph in the 1975 World Cup in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
He was part of the teams which won the bronze medals in the 1968 Games in Mexico City and the 1972 edition in Munich.
Ajit Pal was also part of the Asian All-Star team in 1974.