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Olympia Sporting House -- Oldest Javelin shop of India still runs at Bowbazar

7 September, 2021 11:49:01
Olympia Sporting House -- Oldest Javelin shop of India still runs at Bowbazar

As Niraj Chopra made India proud by winning a Gold Medal in Javelin and created history, a quaint shop tucked in a corner on Nirmal Chandra Street of Bowbazar carried a historical vignette. Olympia Sporting House of Central Kolkata is not just an outlet selling sports equipment, but a heritage shop. As soon as you enter the store, you will encounter a row of bamboo javelins stacked in one corner.

Olympia Sporting House has been the forerunner in the manufacturing of javelin for the past 125 years. Not just javelin, the shop owners have been involved in manufacturing modern indigenous sporting equipment.  They are stashed haphazardly inside the shop unlike modern sports stalls. But ask for quality – they are anytime the best. There are even books dealing with manufacturing techniques of sports equipment. It started operations in1896, the same year when the first modern Olympics were held in Athens, Greece. This heritage shop is not just a business venture for the Basu family. In fact, the family members are proud of the rich legacy of the shop they have inherited and consider it their duty to continue the journey ahead. That is the reason why Shekharchandra took the reins of the family business in his hands despite doing his doctorate in Chemistry. 

The first fibre-glass goal post in the country was manufactured by him when Lionel Messi came to Calcutta. Prior to that, nobody in India had the experience to fabricate the fibre-glass goal post. The shop specializes in making javelins. Shekharchandra’s father Bibhutibhushan Basu was encouraged by his uncle Saroj Ghosh to make bamboo javelins. Nowadays, bamboo javelins are not used for any national or international level competitions. Modern javelins are primarily made from steel, aluminum or aluminum alloy and the construction of the javelin must follow the rules of the IAAF. But bamboo javelins are ideal for training. 

Javelins manufactured in China or Punjab are very expensive and one has to shell out a few thousand rupees to get one. The same quality of javelin is sold from this store for anything between Rs 400 and 500. There was a time when this shop manufactured and exported javelins to all parts of the country. But times have changed and sales have dropped drastically over the years. Olympia is renowned for the manufacturing and sale of another traditional sports equipment – archery. There was a great demand for their bows and arrows made of bamboo but the demand for the equipment have also reduced drastically in the last couple of years.

Will Neeraj Chopra’s win at the Tokyo Olympics inspire more youngsters to take to the sport and in the process will there be a rise in the sale of javelins at Olympia? Only time will tell. The outlet also sells dummies for martial art sport, yoga mats, equipment required for horse riding, mountaineering, athletics, gymnastics, golf, polo, water sports, ice sports, fishing, bamboo fishing poles, fitness equipment et al. The Basus’ maintain a strict vigil on the standard of all equipment manufactured at their workshop or outsourced. The father-son duo is determined to continue the rich legacy they have inherited and their journey continues fraught with impediments.

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