It is an outing that sprint queen PT Usha would want to erase from her mind. The Payyoli Express, who came within a whisker of clinching bronze at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, got a taste of official apathy when she arrived at Bhopal with her wards for the National Open Athletic Championship.
Usha’s troubles started the moment she landed at Bhopal. On a rainy Monday night, she was left stranded at the airport as there was no one to receive her. The Padma Shree and Arjuna Award recipient’s travails did not end there as she reached the Sports Authority of India’s centre on her own, only to be told to share a hostel room with five others.
An appalled Usha declined the offer and instead checked into the India Coffee House, about 500m from the venue of the championship. There, the former No. 1 Asian sprinter narrated the humiliation to reporters. “How can you expect sportspersons to win medals when people like me are treated this way?” the ace runner of yore said with moist eyes.
“I was told to wait till 2.30 pm (for separate accommodation) as the Sports Minister M.S. Gill’s programme was underway at the SAI Centre…The SAI Centre has my framed photograph. However, when I reached there, nobody seemed concerned,” she said.
RK Naidu, director in-charge at the SAI centre, however, claimed that Usha had been provided a single room with four beds in the new hostel. “Had Usha communicated her desire to stay in a hotel, she would have been accommodated in a city hotel after consulting the SAI Director General,” he said.
Secretary-general of the Madhya Pradesh Athletic Association, Mumtaz Khan, said Usha and her wards were not on the official list of visitors. “The news of her arrival came late. Still we sent a person to receive her,” he said.
As TV channels flashed the news, industry minister Kailash Vijayvargiya reached the Coffee House and tried to persuade her to shift to Hotel Jehan Numa.
Meanwhile, the MP govt has ordered a probe under director (sports) Sanjay Choudhary and a report is expected within a week. However, Choudhary said he was yet to receive a formal communication.