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Veteran sports journalist Harpal Singh Bedi passes away at 72

Not to be forgotten was his ability to be a mentor to young journalists in the press box. He could make nervous newbies comfortable with his trademark humour.
Last Updated : 15 June 2024, 07:30 IST

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New Delhi: Veteran sports journalist Harpal Singh Bedi, who covered several highs and lows of Indian sports in a career spanning over four decades, served as the national Olympic contingent's press attache in 2012 and charmed the media box with his inimitable wit and warmth, died after prolonged illness on Saturday.

He was 72 and is survived by his wife Revathi and daughter Pallavi.

The former sports editor of the United News of India (UNI) was among the tallest figures in Indian sports journalism and was working as a consulting editor of the Statesman newspaper for the last couple of years.

His awe-inspiring work experience included on-ground coverage of eight Olympic Games, "hard to count" Asian Games, the Commonwealth Games, World Cups of cricket and hockey, and world and national championships of athletics and other major Olympic sports.

Not to be forgotten was his ability to be a mentor to young journalists in the press box. He could make nervous newbies comfortable with his trademark humour.

"Harpal Singh Bedi was a quintessential newsman, loved and respected...," said veteran journalist and sports administrator G Rajaraman as he paid tributes to his former colleague.

"His finger was on the pulse of Indian sport and sports administration," Rajaraman, who will be India's press attache at the upcoming Paris Olympics, told PTI.

A close friend of Bishan Singh Bedi, he was also often mistaken for the late Indian spin great.

"We are close friends you know; I am BSB, he is HSB. We go back a long way," the former India captain, who passed away in 2023 after battling multiple health problems, had told this correspondent once.

An alumnus of the prestigious Jawahar Lal Nehru University, where he did his Masters and M. Phil from the School of International Studies, Bedi was considered a father figure in sports journalism by his colleagues.

He was witness to the change and growth in the country's sporting landscape from the time P T Usha attained worldwide fame with her fourth-place finish in the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics to the epoch-making gold medal that Abhinav Bindra won in the 2008 Beijing Games.

Bedi's fame also transcended borders and he became a popular figure with Pakistani journalists when he toured the country with the Indian cricket teams in 2004 and 2005. He quite literally became a story for the local journalists for his jovial personality.

"His understanding of the Indo-Pak relationship was at par with the best foreign affairs experts," Rajaram recalled.

Senior Pakistani sports journalist Rasheed Shakoor was among those who befriended Bedi during these tours.

"Unke paas khabron ke saath saath lateefon ka bhi khazana hota tha (He was a treasure trove of both news and jokes)," Shakoor told PTI.

"His was such a jolly personality. It was so easy to become his friend. I once wrote a piece about how he was mistaken for Bishan Singh Bedi and was interviewed by a TV channel.

"I called him for a comment, and I remember he laughed so much and made fun of me for writing about it. Bohot hi pyaare insaan, jo respect dete the, aur badle mein unhe bohot respect milti thi (He was a lovely human being. He gave respect to others and also earned a lot of respect)."

The only recorded instances of Bedi not being his jovial self in the press box were the times when the Indian hockey team performed poorly.

A passionate follower of the sport, Bedi could be seen muttering under his breath in frustration while furiously typing his reports much to the amusement of his colleagues.

"The only journalist I knew who could laugh at himself. The press box will not be the same without him," said Vijay Lokapally, the former senior editor of 'The Hindu'.

However, Bedi's health had deteriorated in the past one year and he mostly kept to himself.

"Harpal Singh Bedi ji, the most cheerful among sports journalists, is no longer among us. Rest in peace," 2008 Olympic bronze-winning boxer Vijender Singh posted on his social media page, offering his tributes.

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Published 15 June 2024, 07:30 IST

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