Around 60,000 Delhiites watched four women athletes run to win gold in the women’s relay race on Tuesday. Sini Jose, one of the gold medallists, said if it weren’t for the constant cheer from the packed stands at Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, they probably would have had to settle for silver.
“The Delhi crowd cheered us to push our limits,” Jose told TV channels in post-event interviews. “The crowd here is ideal for sports.”
It has to be a huge compliment for a city that is rarely known for patronising sports in any noticeable way.
Its local stadiums are often turned into permanent wedding venues; parks become parking lots, swimming pools remain inaccessible to the not-so-rich, football stadium remains sparsely crowded even during Durand Cup — the world’s second oldest football tournament — and its only visible passion for sports is during cricket matches at the Firoze Shah Kotla.
Will Delhi appreciate sports more now after watching the dazzle of the Games?
“Delhiites always appreciated sports but never had the opportunity to follow world-class athletics before,” said Meena Joshi, head of Sports at Modern School, Barakhamba.
“The Games showed us that glamour, scale and international quality could be associated with non-cricketing sports as well. This makes a difference.”
Delhiites thronged the stadiums. People who never had any perceptible interest in boxing before were seen cheering for gold medallist Suranjoy Mayengbam.
Those who had so far only worshipped the likes of Sachin Tendulkar were seeking discus gold medallist Krishna Punia’s autograph and keenly following the medals tally.
Optimists say that this interest could probably be a lasting legacy if parents let their children play.
“The sporting infrastructure the Games leave behind will feed this interest,” said ASV Prasad, head of Sports of the Games Organizing Committee.
“It will keep these sports alive in the use of the training venues, the sporting equipment, and the stadiums.”
“The 40 professional training venues at Delhi University colleges, Jamia University, DPS School and such areas might entice more kids to join these sports,” Prasad said.
There’s the little issue of maintenance though.
Since the Asian Games in 1982, the then world-class stadiums had fallen into such a state of decay that to be used for the Commonwealth Games, they needed major reconstruction.
Authorities, however, promise that this time they will take good care of the infrastructure through a novel public-private partnership. Only time will tell if that happens as promised. Figures that made impact | Five things CWG has left us