The Kila Raipur Games failed to draw crowds on day one on Thursday in the absence of bullock cart races.
After bowing to pressure exerted by various animal welfare bodies against holding the bullock cart races following a Supreme Court ruling, organisers Grewal Sports Association found a replacement in the form of horse races, but even that failed to attract spectators to Kila Raipur village, 20km from here.
According to those who have been witnessing the games for decades, there was a considerable decline in the number of spectators that can be attributed to the fact that there are no bullock cart races this year.
Devora from Australia, who is visiting the games for the first time to enjoy the bullock cart races, said, "It is really disappointing to find that there will be no bullock cart races this year."
Devora, accompanied by friends Pessy and Ed from Australia, said, "We found out about the race on the Internet and after collecting information from various sources, managed to locate the place and land here. But upon reaching here in the morning, we were told that there would be no bullock cart races this year, which left us hugely disappointed. We intend to leave the place first thing in the evening."
Sukhwinder Singh from Lohgarh village, a frequent participant at the event for more than 30 years, said, "After participating in the event for so long, you are suddenly told that there would be no bullock cart races this time. Villagers, participants and non-participants are thoroughly disappointed. Cruelty is inflicted on other animals too, but the authorities do not seem bothered."
Singh, who owns six pairs of bulls, who have been participating in these games and won the race in 1986 and 1994, is now worried about their future.
"The bullock cart race is not just a sporting event, it is a tradition which we and our ancestors have been following for eight decades now," he said.
Sixty-five-year-old Jagga Singh from Mehma Singh Wala village, who has been following the bullock cart races since the age of five, said, "Most bullock cart race participants come here out of their love for the event. A regular participant, on an average, spends Rs 500 or more daily on a bull."
He said, "My father, who will turn 100 this year, was a regular participant and was deeply disappointed after learning that the event has been discontinued."
According to the villagers, the attendance on day one of the games was not even half of what it was last year.