From Friday, seven Elite Athletes with Disability (EAD) — all set to represent India in this October’s Commonwealth Games — will get up daily at 2:30am to train.
These five men and two women, with handicaps ranging from a single arm, to both legs being afflicted with polio, to having no use of the arm below the elbow (all differing categories of disability) have no choice — they have been given a 4-6am training slot.
The rest of the day’s slots at the Lakshmibai National University of Physical Education, Gwalior, are being kept aside for a college summer camp.
That’s not all.
The national camp is taking place at 25-m pool, while the competition will take place in a 50-m pool (the standard international size).
“The government is making fun of us. How can they organise an international camp at a 25m pool when the competition will take place in a 50m pool?” asked a national swimmer.
Another core group swimmer was indignant. “They are giving preference to summer coaching camps rather than swimmers preparing for the Commonwealth Games.”
At the national powerlifting camp in Nagpur, official callousness is evident in how lifters are being forced to travel the four kms from the MLA hostel where they're staying, to the practice arena by auto-rickshaw. It’s tough for disabled athletes with wheelchairs.
At the hostel itself, the players’ rooms have coolers, though the water-pumps are not working. It is not enough to beat the 42-45 degrees Celsius heat.
CWG campers at the athletics and table tennis camps at the SAI Centre, Gandhinagar, have no a/c rooms, but general category sportspersons have got them. “The condition of the toilets here is dismal. The quality of the food is also poor and not what has been sanctioned for Games' athletes (Rs 550, including supplements),” a disabled athlete added.
An athlete said they had met the Director-in-charge of the SAI, Western Centre, on Tuesday, to protest the discrimination. The Director in question, Shyam Sunder, said that the blockage in the toilets and the overflowing waste “would be sorted out in 2-3 days”. He added that he had “sent the demand for a/cs to the head office”. “As soon as we get the sanction for the same, we will float tenders”.
By which time, of course, the Games could well be over.