A lot has been said and discussed about the infrastructure for next year’s Commonwealth Games, but few, if any, words have been written about the real heroes — the athletes — and their preparations for the quadrennial event.
Away from the media glare, they are training hard, braving all odds, including lack of equipment that was promised a long time ago.
A special budget of more than Rs 700 crore for preparing elite athletes was sanctioned more than a year back, but they still continue to be deprived of basic equipment like special shoes, boxing gloves, weightlifting sets... the list is long.
HT takes a discipline-wise look at sportspersons preparing for the Games.
The core group camp for the Games was shifted from NIS Patiala to Pune (men) and Bangalore (women) in mid-May, on the pretext that the weightlifting hall was to be converted into a centrally air-conditioned facility.
But with the deadline for completion just 12 days away, the authorities are yet to begin work.
“Shifting the camp to Pune and Bangalore has created a lot of problems, as we have just one coach to train both men and women,” said an Indian weightlifting official.
“We were planning to shift our camp back to NIS after September 30, but cannot because the hall isn’t ready.”
It’s one of the three disciplines that gave the country a moment of pride at the Beijing Olympics and is expected to yield a rich haul of medals in the 2010 Games.
But our elite grapplers — both freestyle and Graeco-Roman — are making do with ceiling fans and coolers in the searing heat at Sports Authority of India’s Northern Centre in Sonepat.
There was a proposal to build a 200-bed air-conditioned hostel at Sonepat especially for the 2010 Games, but work on the project has just started and would get completed much after the Games are over.
Among the list of long-pending demands of pugilists, the most pressing one was the construction of an air-conditioned practice hall. After the stellar performance of Indian boxers at Beijing Olympics, a decision was taken to air-condition the existing hall. Work started a week ago and no one knows when the hall will be ready.
Resentment is brewing among Indian coaches attached to the core group at Patiala and Sonepat at the step-motherly treatment meted out to them vis-à-vis the foreign coaches.
Even as Indian coaches are deprived of basic amenities, foreign trainers get air-conditioners, refrigerators etc. Things came to a boil in May when five foreign athletics coaches arrived at the NIS and were accommodated in air-conditioned rooms with modern facilities.
The situation at the Sonepat centre is similar. “It’s not that we cannot survive on coolers but it feels bad when you are discriminated against in your own country,” said a coach attached with the core group.
Other infrastructure woes
The astro-turf, which was inaugurated by Sports Minister M.S. Gill in February, has not yet been officially handed over to Sports Authority of India, resulting in the core group of hockey training at Pune.