Delhi’s hockey landmark Shivaji Stadium reels under apathy from authorities
The New Delhi Municipal Corporation (NDMC) has not renovated the Shivaji Stadium, which has hosted many international and national hockey tournaments, almost a year after Hockey India drew attention to its poor condition.other sports Updated: Jan 22, 2018 20:21 IST
The Shivaji Stadium was the premier hockey venue in India for many years, but the Delhi landmark has lurched towards disuse in the last decade, and the civic authorities tasked with maintaining it are facing criticism.
The venue hosted matches in the 1982 Asian Games and national-level tournaments annually, but was not renovated by the New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC) in time for the 2010 Commonwealth Games. The hockey events as well as the World Cup were staged at the National Stadium a few kilometers away.
Hockey India has said it will not approve any tournament until Shivaji Stadium is renovated, but work continues at snail’s pace. The NDMC has not finished renovation despite Hockey India writing to them almost a year ago.
In March, 2017, HI Executive Director, RK Srivastava, wrote to Secretary, NDMC: “The pitch is currently very dirty and slippery, which makes it unplayable and dangerous for athletes as they can get injured. Also, there is no proper equipment with the stadium authorities for cleaning the pitch… it was getting cleaned using floor-cleaning wipers, which can damage the pitch.”
The letter pointed out the pitch certification would expire in April, 2017. “The floodlight had 18 fused bulbs and the trolley, used for replacement of bulbs/servicing, has been non-operational for more than two years,” Srivastava wrote.
A senior NDMC official said on Thursday: “Work is still in progress. The process is on and we hope to get the clearance of the federation as early as possible.” The federation had said the facilities should be up to international hockey federation standard.
Hockey India even shifted the prestigious Nehru Hockey tournament last year out of the National Stadium. Venue manager, Rohtas Singh, said cleaning the turf has been given priority and was being done regularly. “We are having local events and coaching camps,” he said.
This correspondent visited the venue a few days ago and saw the sprinklers not working. Ground staff said it has been out of order for a fortnight. “The underground pipe is damaged; we’re using a manual system to water the turf,” one member said.
The sprinkler system used to breakdown often in the past too.
HI spokeswoman, Elena Norman, said: “We understand NDMC still has some work to do. After completion they need to contact the independent, certified vendor on the FIH list. Once it’s approved, HI will allow events.”
Former greats criticised the state of affairs. “Officials should wake up as tax-payers’ money has been spent. The venue should be put to maximum use,” said former India skipper Ajitpal Singh. “Some five decades back, I played my first university-level tournament at the venue and got a big break.”
Harbinder Singh, Olympian and currently a national selector, said the venue was home to many ex-internationals. “It has been a landmark in the history of Delhi and shouldn’t be neglected,” he said.