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No promising start, junior athletes at zonal meet lodged in gurudwara

Participants from six northern states were lodged in a gurudwara in Tarn Taran during the North Zone Junior Athletics Championships.

other sports Updated: Oct 30, 2017 19:31 IST
Navneet Singh
Navneet Singh
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Athletics,Tarn Taran,gurudwara
Junior athletes eat food during ‘langar’ at a local gurudwara in Tarn Taran.(HT Photo)

The least the country’s crop of promising athletes can hope for at a national level sports meet is nutritious food and proper shelter. But participants at the two-day North Zone Junior Athletics Championships held on October 14 and 15, in Punjab, were in for a shock.

The local organisers of the meet at Tarn Taran, a small town which is around 20 km from the holy city of Amritsar, not only lodged them in a gurudwara, they also left them with no choice but to eat food from the community kitchen run by the religious place.

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Athletes from six states, including Uttar Pradesh and Delhi, complained that the participants were made to compete on a frugal diet of ‘dal and roti’ served at the gurudwara.

Sarthak Bhambri, a national level athlete from Delhi, said the participants had no other option as Tarn Taran hardly had any hotel or restaurant.

“It was a big problem but no one was willing to address it. You either ate food served at the gurudwara or starved as there was no other arrangement,” he told Hindustan Times.

The Delhi sprinter still went on to win two gold medals in the under-20 boys’ section. But he was left fuming and complaining.

“Budding athletes from eight northern states had gone to showcase their talent, but were left to face this situation,” Bhambri added.

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Apart from food and lodging, the organisers were also casual about the schedule.

Confusion prevailed after the organisers, Punjab State Athletics Association, postponed the meet by a day, and reduced the three-day event to a two-day affair. The Athletics Federation of India (AFI) had originally scheduled the meet from October 13-15.

“As the decision was taken at the eleventh hour, we got to know only after we had started for Tarn Taran,” an official from Uttarakhand claimed.

The complaints were, however, brushed aside by KPS Brar, secretary-general of the Punjab athletics body. He said that no athlete had complained.

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“All the arrangements were good,” he said. Justifying the decision to put up athletes in a gurudwara, he said that Punjab athletes faced poorer facilities when they travelled to other states.

Brar said the local organisers were forced to put up the athletes at a religious place due to fund crunch. “We don’t get any financial support from the government or the federation to organise athletics,” he said.

“It reflects poor administration at the state level,” said AFI secretary general CK Valson.

Meanwhile, Punjab state athletics body has been suspended for three months as the officials didn’t attend the federation’s Annual General Meeting held at Delhi on October 28 and 29.

First Published: Oct 30, 2017 19:31 IST