The last major multi-discipline sports event held in India, the 2010 Commonwealth Games in New Delhi, was supposed to trigger an explosion of sporting activity in a country which had for decades faced ridicule for not achieving sporting success at the highest levels.
A lack of infrastructure was a major complaint from Indian athletes for not being able to match their counterparts elsewhere. The facilities built for the Delhi Games were expected to bridge the gap. While India is making a mark in disciplines like shooting, badminton and wrestling, the overall progress is still far too slow.
One of the major criticisms is poor utilisation of the infrastructure, especially those built at huge cost for mega sporting events. Although global sports governing bodies pay considerable attention to legacy, on how major stadia will be used once the event is done and dusted, Indian sports bosses have been guilty of not putting together a plan that will allow young boys and girls easy access and provide them proper guidance to take up sports.
The Sports Authority of India (SAI), the government’s nodal agency to supervise sports, did try to open some of the venues to the public under the “pay and play” scheme, but it has not been commercially viable so far. Often, the expenditure for running the facilities is much higher than the money generated by throwing open the arenas to the public.
That has resulted in these massive venues, built out of tax-payers’ money, turning into white elephants. Few of the venues in the Capital are put to optimum use and are gradually falling apart because of a lack of maintenance. Some of them are not deemed fit enough to stage even national tournaments.
The community connect scheme in the Capital, started by SAI with a budget of Rs 25 crore, is another example of how one part of the country is not able to cash in on facilities while most of India still has to do with basic infrastructure. Across major sports venues in Delhi, a lot of money has been spent to build venues for various sports with even coaches being posted, but there have been few takers so far. This reflects poor planning and renders the exercise meaningless.