‘Come and play’ — now, doesn't that sound really sweet. But the scheme, launched by the Sports Authority of India (SAI) to encourage people to utilise the facilities created for the Commonwealth Games, is far from fun and frolic.
The Shyama Prasad Mukherjee Complex, the venue for aquatic events during the CWG, has all the facilities a top swimmer can ask for, but for beginners there is nothing. "Only those who know swimming will be given admission here," says stadium administrator Arun Sharma. And that too, if they pass a trial!The sports ministry had announced the 'come and play' scheme recently both for professional athletes and beginners with the objective of encouraging people to participate in sports so that the multi-crore facilities could be utilised. While the first set of people are benefitting, the beginners have absolutely no scope of getting admission.
"These are Olympic-sized pools with no shallow ends, and that's why only those who know swimming are eligible here," says Sharma, adding, "How will a novice learn in seven-feet flat pools? Beginners first need to stand in water."
Among the many goof-ups in the build-up to the CWG was the demolition of two swimming pools inside the complex. "There were two pools here, but both were demolished," says Sharma.
While one was a toddler pool, the other was a normal 25-metre pool with shallow ends where beginners could take their first plunge. So, why wasn't a provision made for these facilities in the new plan?
"Go and ask the minister," blurts Sharma. When the Games were awarded to Delhi, Mani Shankar Aiyer was at the helm of the sports ministry. Then came MS Gill. And now, the seat is being held by Ajay Maken.
The 'come and play' scheme was primary aimed to carry the CWG legacy forward and infuse a sporting culture. But with no place for enthusiastic beginners, how does the sports ministry plan to carry that legacy forward.