The sewage water right next to the Ulsoor lake in Bangalore is a place where you would never want to be. Forget the fact that the stink, dirt and insects at the lake can make you sick; playing a sport there is the last thing on anyone's mind. And yet, ignoring all of that the 22nd National Kayaking and Canoeing Championships were held at the lake, which was filled with the city's drainage waste.
"The water here stinks. I think sewage water seeps into the lake from somewhere. The water is certainly not good for competition. And then inhaling stinking air can affect one's health. An athlete may not realise it now but in the long run he may develop problems," said the chief coach of the Delhi team Sanjay Beniwal.
During the five-day championship which concluded on Sunday, a competitor from Kerala developed allergy which was later attributed to the fumes emanating from the filthy water. Two players from Assam faced severe skin irritation after their boat capsized on the lake. "Our two rowers fell in the lake when their boat turned turtle. And since then they have itching sensations. In these conditions, it's difficult to perform," said Ujjal Biswas from Assam.
But the organisers have a very lame excuse for conducting the championship in the contaminated lake. When this reporter ventured into the lake, he had to retreat soon because of the stink. "You have gone there for the first time, that's why you faced the problem. If you go there a few times, you will get used to it. There is absolutely no problem," said Balbir Singh Kushwaha, secretary general, Indian Kayaking and Canoeing Association.
When asked whether the dirty water will adversely affect the performance and also the health of an athlete, strangely Kushwaha said: "In India, you have a problem with drinking water, this is nothing."
The lake was be separated from the drain by a wall and net fences but the height of the wall was the same as the water level. So it may have kept the solid waste away, but didn't prevent contamination of the lake. "I have not seen this. But I will ask the authorities concerned to look into it," said Kushwaha.
The filth also makes the water hard, increasing its density and thereby affecting the performance. "When the water becomes hard, kayaks have to apply more force, and this affects their timing," said Beniwal.
(The writer works for ESPN's SPortscenter)