The Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium (JNS) has been synonymous with top-flight athletics, yet there have been occasions when track and field activities at the venue have come to a standstill.
Training of top athletes for domestic competitions has been disrupted as the stadium is one of the venues for next year’s Fifa under-17 World Cup.
Even when Indian Super League (ISL) matches are held at JNS, the home ground of the Delhi Dynamos franchise, the main track is out of bounds for athletes. The ground is closed a day before the match, which means athletes can’t use the facilities for two days.
What’s frustrating is the football pitch at the warm-up ground is under renovation and the dust has halted track activities. Top athletes are upset as they are unable to train well for upcoming events.
A runner preparing for the junior national meet said if one ground is closed the other should be available for training. “It’s poor management on the part of the authorities,” he said.
Training has been hampered keeping in mind the busy schedule. The junior nationals start in Coimbatore on November 10, the national inter-district junior competition commences in Visakhapatnam from November 25, while the school nationals and All India inter-university meets are slated in January.
It isn’t just the tracks that are inaccessible. The gymnasium at the basement of the stadium --- it has weights and barbells --- is also closed. The complex also has a multipurpose gym but the membership fee is Rs 1,500 per month. Entry is free for Arjuna awardees and international athletes, but upcoming athletes have to pay.
Sanjeev Baranwal, director, infrastructure, Sports Authority of India (SAI), said his department was trying hard to expedite the work. “There is some disturbance due to the renovation. Things will be fine in six or seven weeks.”
The ISL runs till December, however, if Delhi Dynamos don’t finish in the top four --- they’re currently sixth in the table --- matches in Delhi would end by November 27. “The main track should be available for athletes in the last week of November. There shouldn’t a problem,” said a SAI official.
The oval inside the warm-up track has been overused as there are over 200 football trainees who are regulars in the stadium. There are only patches of grass, making it difficult for the players. “It was decided to renovate the football pitch. The work will take three-four months. Till then, football activities won’t be possible. There will be some interference in athletics too,” said an official.
Under the ‘come and play’ scheme, initiated to make use of the stadiums renovated for the 2010 Commonwealth Games, casual players also use the facilities, but there is limited space.
According to Shaji Prabhakaran, Fifa regional development officer, the renovation is scheduled to be completed by February. “Things are on track. The Fifa team will have another round of inspection in February. We have been assured all work will be completed by then,” he said.