Set up with Rio in mind, Bhopal turf has no takers

  • Saurabh Duggal
  • Updated: Jun 22, 2016 12:35 IST

CHANDIGARH: What’s in a colour? Ask the Sports Authority of India (SAI), which has spent a whopping Rs 50 lakh more on the blue hockey astro turf at its Bhopal centre, even though the green one would have served the purpose.

SAI wanted to make Bhopal a permanent training base for the women’s team preparing for the Rio Olympics, and give them a feel of the blue turf, which would be the playing surface at the quadrennial event.

But ever since the turf was inaugurated, it has not been used even once, and the training schedule in the run-up to the Games is such that it is impossible to even host a short camp here.

Polytan STI is the principal manufacturer of the blue turf being used at Rio, and hence became the only company eligible to file the tender for the Bhopal turf, and quote its price.

The cost of installation of the blue turf at Bhopal is Rs 2.76 crore, while a rough estimate of a top-quality green turf approved by the international hockey federation (FIH), meeting international standards, is between Rs 2-2.2 crore.

A senior SAI official in Bhopal told HT, “If the women’s team was not going to train in Bhopal before the Rio Games, what was the purpose of spending extra money.”

Last year, a Holland-based company installed a green turf at Chandigarh for Rs 1.81 crore, and going by the prevalent dollar rate, a similar turf in Bhopal (approx 6,400 sqm) would have cost Rs 2.01 crore.

Incidentally, the Indian representative of STI too had applied for the green turf at Chandigarh, and made a Rs 2 crore bid.

The then SAI regional director (Bhopal), Roque Dias, had questioned the logic behind spending extra money on the blue turf. He was transferred to Delhi for raising doubts.

Reacting to Dias’s queries, Sanjiv Baranwal, director infrastructure (SAI), wrote on Sept 18, 2015, “It is intimated that the request was received from Hockey India and high-performance director (Roelant) Oltmans to provide at least one turf each at Bangalore and Bhopal having the same specifications as the turf at the Rio Olympics, so that the Indian hockey team can participate under similar conditions for better medal prospects.”

For the past year, the women’s and men’s teams are training on the blue turf at the Bangalore centre. Next month, the girls will shift to the US from where they will head to Rio.

When contacted, Baranwal said, “Hockey India asked for the turf in Bhopal by March this year. There was a little delay but we got it ready by April. As for the cost, there is not much difference between the two.”

A senior marketing executive of a leading turf company in the country, said, “When the question is about specific parameters, and there is a single player, a lot of things can be managed and prices jacked up.”

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