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That sinking feeling

It's that time of hope again as our Olympians head for London. While many a nation has cashed in on the legacy of hosting major Games, our CWG stadia are crumbling. In the first of a series, HT brings you the sorry state of the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium. This is how they do it

india Updated: Jul 15, 2012 01:27 IST
Navneet Singh

The legacy of marquee events like the Olympics is how they act as a springboard for a nation to leapfrog into the league of sporting powers. The 2010 Commonwealth Games were expected to do the same to India, but as HT pointed out in a series last year, the infrastructure at various venues across the Capital is already falling apart due to official apathy and disuse. Several months down the line, the situation on the ground is unchanged.

From the outside, the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium looks imposing and a legacy worth cherishing. But the moment you step inside, anguish is the overpowering emotion. The stadium has been in disuse for so long that the next time the Athletics Federation of India (AFI) plans to conduct an international event, it should do a serious re-think. Renovated at a cost of over Rs 900 crore, the stadium is showing all signs of decay.

Track and field is the lifeblood of any games but India’s most prestigious sports arena lies in a sad state. The first four lanes are so damaged any athlete runs the risk of career-threatening injury.

Not fit for training
A senior Sports Authority of India (SAI) official reveals that the synthetic track is not even suitable for training. “The surface has become uneven and a track which should have lasted 5-6 years has already fallen apart,” he says.

When the refurbished stadium was inaugurated, there was renewed hope that the Capital’s sporting fraternity —particularly track and field enthusiasts — would get the opportunity to once again see star athletes in action, like in 1989 when legends like Carl Lewis, Morocco’s Said Aouita and England’s Steve Ovett competed in Delhi. “Watching top athletes up close is a great source of inspiration,” said Delhi-based former international athlete Dinesh Rawat.

International technical official, CK Valson, who is also the AFI secretary general, says that to conduct an International Association of Athletic Federations (IAAF) event, the track should be uniform with a standard thickness of 13mm. The Nehru stadium track falls short on both counts.” In fact, the track, even before it hosted the CWG, got damaged due to apathy and had to be repaired. And even as the spectators, administrators and officials were basking in the glory of a ‘successful games’, the track had again sunk at many places.

SAI officials were quick to pass the buck, blaming it on a faulty base. But instead of properly repairing it, a layer of granular material was spread to level the track. It is not just the track. The giant video screen, which is mandatory for conducting international meets, is also not functioning. “The operational components of the screen are missing and they are not available in the country,” says another SAI official. Valson says these are the major reasons why the IAAF hasn’t awarded any event to India.

No gym at stadium
Would you believe if you were told that the stadium, conceptualised as the hub of athletics activity, does not have a gymnasium? A gym was installed during the games, but was shifted to SAI’s Sonepat centre in Haryana after that. Little wonder professional athletes have to go elsewhere for working out when they are in the city.

This apart there is no equipment for budding and age-group athletes. “Most of the equipment is not meant for young athletes,” said a trainee. “It could cause damage to our bodies or leave us with chronic problems.” “Training too much on hard or synthetic surfaces isn’t advisable for the lower limbs of budding athletes,” says one of the coaches at the stadium. “But we have no option as there is no grass track or practice area.”

SAI secretary Gopal Krishna, however, said there hadn’t been any complaint but he would look into it.

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