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JLN Stadium a Petri dish for sports stars

The 1982 construction that has produced numerous sportpersons is getting ready to host one of the matches during 2017 FIFA U-17 World Cup

delhi Updated: Jul 01, 2016 20:04 IST
Vatsala Shrangi
India played its first-ever day and night match under floodlights at this stadium in 1983.
India played its first-ever day and night match under floodlights at this stadium in 1983. (Sanchit Khanna / HT Photos)

It is bigger than how you see it on television. The Jawaharlal Nehru (JLN) Stadium near CGO Complex, Lodhi Road, is where you may end up finding the future stars. The stadium which was built in 1982 to host the ninth Asian Games has since produced many top athletes.

Interestingly, not many would remember that this very ground was where India played its first-ever day and night match under floodlights in 1983. Also, a turf was made in order to build a pitch as the grounds were not meant for playing cricket. However, it was a benefit match between India and Pakistan, in which the home country won. Till the Games, the telecast of the events on national TV was done in black and white. However, the floodlights were installed in order to broadcast the mega event in colour.

The stadium is going to be one of the venues for the 2017 FIFA U-17 World Cup for which preparations are already underway. Football camps have been set up and players from NCR and across the states have come for practice for selection for the upcoming event.

Prime Minister Indira Gandhi inaugurating Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium (left). One of the lesser-known tombs is still part of the stadium complex. (HT File)



  • To preserve the iconic character of the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, an innovative design for roof over seating tier has been provided. This is one of the largest membrane roof system (spanning 71 metre) in the world.
  • Façade lighting in the stadium covers 54,000 sqm of the membrane which provides a crown shape to the stadium.
  • The stadium has state-of-the-art technology for sports lighting, public address and other events.
  • The membrane of the roof is illuminated at night during mega events.
  • For the CWG, an air-conditioned tunnel was built for the performers of the opening and closing ceremonies inside the stadium below the athletes track and arena.

60,000 fixed seats


Synthetic Athletic Tracks: 9 Lane
Warm up area: Track & Field, Throwing Temporary, Fitness centre
Ramps: The new approach ramps have been designed to provide an evacuation time lesser than
6 minutes as per international standards.

It was the first mega-event which was telecast in colour on national television, for which floodlights were installed in the stadium for the first time. Before this all events were broadcast in black and white.

Besides India-Pak benefit match, two more ODIs were played here for which a turf wicket was made.
1. India vs Australia 1984: Australia won by 48 runs
2. India vs South Africa: the latter won by 8 wickets

Every day, hundreds of sportsmen can be seen in their neon-colour kits toiling hard on the sprawling grounds here. The stadium is the fourth largest multi-purpose sports facility in India. The stadium has undergone massive changes in all these years. It was given a facelift in 2008-09 in preparation for the Commonwealth Games of 2010. The complex also houses the office of the Sports Authority of India (SAI).

“In 1982, it was the first-of-its-kind stadium built in the country. At that time no other stadium had synthetic tracks, which were laid here. The multi-purpose facility was a landmark achievement for the Capital,” said ML Dogra, director, Athletics Federation of India (AFI). A former runner, Dogra has trained and coached here. He can still be seen on the grounds every evening. “During the Asian Games, the footfall was unprecedented. Most viewers had come to see the stadium. At that time, the participation of Asian countries too was limited, unlike today, when the number has risen to 44. The quality bar too has been raised,” he said.

The stadium has got the best facilities, so it has been instrumental in shaping the lives of many sportspersons. (Sanchit Khanna / HT Photo)

The stadium has got the best facilities, so it has been instrumental in shaping the lives of many sportspersons. Dinesh Rawat, one of the athletes who coaches here, remembers coming here to see the 1982 Asian Games with his parents. “I was in school then and used to play football for our team. I started training here in 1993 and won a silver in 4X400 metre relay race in the 1998 Asian Games held in Bangkok,” said Rawat, who has trained a number of players who have made it big in the sport including Beant Singh and Lalit Mathur.

Right now, he is busy coaching runners for the World U-20 Athletics Championship 2016 to be held this July. “The junior athletes are training for the Poland championship. We are also targeting for the 2020 Olympics. This year only a few senior players are going for the final trials for the Rio Olympics,” said Rawat.

Problem areas

The ground has sunk at several places within the stadium. (Sanchit Khanna / HT Photo)

While the stadium has all the facilities, maintenance remains a problem. The huge building has a broken ceiling and the main ground is damaged at many places. Old-timers believe that after the 2010 renovation, the utilisation of the grounds has been reduced as many games such as judo and boxing cannot be practiced anymore. “It is one of the best stadiums. Most of the national records were made and broken here. However, before the CWG, there used to be world-class halls for judo, boxing and wrestling as well as a multi-gym facility in the same building, which were demolished. The government must do more for the promotion of these games, which otherwise do not get sponsors,” said PC Tyagi, pole vault coach at the stadium.

According to Dogra, the main ground will be redone for the 2017 football event. Modifications will be made to prepare the ground for football, as it is an athletics ground. The SAI could rent out portions and use the money for its upkeep, he said.

The ground that has sunk in at various places was because during the CWG, the decision to construct the 150m-long tunnel for the opening and closing ceremonies was taken after the tracks had already been laid.