The peak mosquito season has been around in Delhi for atleast two months now, the Commonwealth Games village went to the dogs, cows have always loved Delhi’s roads and now the snakes have made an appearance as well. When the Ayodhya verdict is out, the sadhus from Ayodhya and Varanasi, I guess will complete the Westerner’s stereotype picture of India.
The elephants will mock us after the Games, whose sports-related official budget is 11500 crore rupees, are over. I mean, the white elephants that have been constructed in the country’s capital. And if you want a sneak preview of how these world-class stadia will lie unused and remain mere architectural marvels after 14th October, look south. To Hyderabad.
The Charminar city hosted the 2002 National Games and 2003 Afro-Asian Games, for which modern stadia were constructed at a cost of 150 crore rupees (peanuts compared to the costs incurred in Delhi, and yet substantial for a poor country like ours). Of that, facilities to host seven disciplines, namely hockey, badminton, football, athletics, swimming, volleyball and basketball were constructed at the state-of-the-art Gachibowli sports complex for 78 crore rupees.
On paper, fantastic for a city that lays claim to the title of the sports capital of India. Reality is however, far removed from it.
Documents available with me reveal that between May 2004 and June 2009, that is exactly five years or say a little over 1800 days, the facilities were used for just 297 days. Which means just once a week.
Take for example, the hockey stadium at Gachibowli (see picture) built at a cost of 21 crores. It has two astroturf, which have a life of 12 years. Seven years have lapsed with no activity at the stadium, even as budding hockey talent in Hyderabad practises on gravel at the Gymkhana ground.
This even as Mukesh Kumar, triple Olympian and the best hockey player the state has produced, keeps offering to coach players. But no sorry, the astroturf is out of bounds even for Mukesh.
Since 2003, the government’s sports department has spent 12.5 lakh rupees every month to maintain the empty Gachibowli complex. That translates to 1.5 crore rupees per annum.
It is truly ironic that the stadia that are built with our money are out of bounds for our own athletes. Andhra Pradesh runs eleven academies in eleven different district of the state. Needless to say, all of them operate in abysmal conditions, and the facilities are nowhere near what the Gachibowli complex can offer. Over 1.5 crore rupees is spent every year on running these academies to train 390 sportspersons. Cost-to-state to train each sportsperson for a year : 38513 rupees. Of this, diet charges are a pathetic 80 rupees per day.
Last year, one of the seniormost officers of the state’s sports ministry pushed for shifting all the academies to Gachibowli so that the athletes could access better facilities and the complex could be put to better use. It would have also saved the government money that is spent on running the inept academies and having all sportspersons under one roof would have helped streamline training.
The proposal was ignored. And in all probability, will remain so. For, closing the academies will hurt too many vested interests. And when the next big event is to be organised at Gachibowli, the life of the equipment available now would have lapsed, which means a window of opportunity to buy brand new stuff. Tenders, quotations, purchases. That includes the two astroturf at the hockey stadium. Wow, how exciting, and in more ways than one.
The massive sports infrastructure that has come up in Delhi is also likely to meet the same as in Hyderabad. And on a larger scale, given the budgets are bigger.
The battle against the powers-that-be isn’t over. After the CWG, we need to reclaim these stadia for our sportspersons. We have had enough of the unsporting netas and babus running sport in India, who wouldn’t bat an eyelid before renting out the stadia for film and political tamashas for paltry sums of money.
The motto of the CWG 2010 is `come out and play’. India needs to get into action on 15th October, 2010.