Sounds improbable? Well, that’s what Bilaspur, a small town in Himachal Pradesh, has on offer.
In what is a unique combination, the town has facilities for aero sports, ground sports and water sports.
Overlooking the Luhnu ground, which houses the under-construction cricket stadium and the Sports Authority of India-run football, badminton and handball centres, is the Shivalik range from where paragliders take off and land straight at the venue.
That’s not all. Caressing the stadium’s outer walls are the placid waters of the Gobind Sagar Lake, a haven for water sports.
“I don’t think any other place has such inherent facilities for all three forms of sport,” says Parminder Singh, vice-president of the Himachal Aero Adventure Sports Association (HAASA).
“It’s a wonderful place for paragliding, providing a minimum flight of eight to ten minutes if the pilot comes straight down. An experienced pilot can, however, fly close to 30 minutes. One can also indulge in some acrobatics as the Gobind Sagar provides a natural cushion in case of a mishap,” he says.
Highlighting the positives of the venue, Parminder says they even got the Army to organise a sky diving festival in 2005. “That was a milestone for us, as sky diving is normally done on occasions of national significance.”
The infrastructure for water sports is good. “Gobind Sagar is a 90-km long lake and can host various competitions.
A few national-level events in kayaking and canoeing were held in 2005 and 2007,” he says. As for ground sports, the Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association is constructing a stadium for hosting top domestic matches.
“We are striving to get the stadium ready for the coming next season,” says Vishal Jagota, who’s overseeing the construction. “The stadium will also have tennis and basketball courts ,” said Jagota.
Add to this the SAI-run centres, and the town emerges as a major sporting hub.
“Despite the promise, the potential of the place is yet to be tapped. In the absence of commercial
and competitive perspective, paragliding is of mere entertainment value. Water sports too happens in a now-on-now-off mode,” rues Parminder.
Time to tap this sleepy town’s unique potential, one would say.