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1982 Asiad: The game changer

The makeover that the city received before the Asian Games accelerated its development by at least a decade. Sidhartha Roy writes.

delhi Updated: Nov 24, 2011 00:15 IST
Sidhartha Roy
Sidhartha Roy
Hindustan Times

The Ninth Asian Games, held in New Delhi in 1982, was a landmark event that changed the city's landscape and skyline.

In the run-up to the 16-day event, the Capital saw the construction of modern flyovers, wide roads and state-of-the-art stadiums that propelled its development by at least a decade.

New Delhi had played host to the first ever Asian Games in 1951. The eight-day event, held mostly at the National Stadium, was a modest affair that saw 11 countries competing in six disciplines.

The 1982 Asiad, on the other hand, was the biggest till then with 33 countries and 4,500 athletes participating in nearly 100 sporting events. The event was a huge challenge with less than two years available for preparation and stadiums had to be built from scratch.

Although New Delhi was anointed as the host in 1976, political turmoil, in the form of Emergency, meant that real work could begin only in 1980. To deal with the multiplicity of authorities in the Capital, the Asian Games Special Organising Committee was given the charge of monitoring all activities concerning the event.

While then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi took keen interest in the development work related to the Games, Rajiv Gandhi, who was an MP then,was made a member of the organising committee. Construction work was undertaken on a war footing and Rajiv Gandhi himself, along with then Lt. Governor of Delhi Jagmohan, took rounds of the sites even after midnight.

Thanks to the Games, the city for the first time, got world class sporting arenas such as the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, Indira Gandhi Indoor Stadium (then Indraprastha Stadium) and Talkatora Swimming Pool and Stadium. The multipurpose Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, with a seating capacity of more than 60,000, is still one of the biggest in the country and has all modern infrastructure, including synthetic tracks. The Indira Gandhi Indoor Stadium was also the first of its kind, with a retractable roof.

The biggest benefactor of the Games was the road infrastructure of the city. New flyovers were added and many roads were widened keeping in mind the expected increase in traffic load during the Games. The city received a huge makeover that pulled it to the 21st century. To augment public transport, 290 buses were added to the Delhi Transport Corporation's fleet and new depots were built. Water and power supply was also augmented in the city. Almost 12,000 new phone lines were added and 150km of telephone cables were laid.

The event began on November 19, 1982 and concluded on December 4, 1982 but it changed the face of Delhi forever.

First Published: Nov 24, 2011 00:10 IST