Six years after the Commonwealth Games were held in the National Capital, many of the sprawling stadiums that had been built spending hundreds of crores of rupees, mostly remain inaccessible, even to journalists, leave alone the common man.
The Sunday Guardian visited several such stadiums maintained both by the New Delhi Municipal Corporation (NDMC) and Sports Authority of India (SAI) separately. Though this correspondent could gain access to the stadiums maintained by the NDMC after several phone calls, he was turned away from the stadiums maintained by SAI even after personally requesting Rachnaa Govil, the Executive Director of Stadia, who said: “Media is not allowed into the stadiums.”
When The Sunday Guardian reached the Indira Gandhi Sports Complex, maintained by SAI, this correspondent was stopped at the gate. Phone calls to Manjushree Roy, the administrator of the stadium, requesting access also did not yield any result. Roy said nobody could be allowed inside the stadium without the prior written approval from the Director General of SAI. “You canview the stadium on our website,” she said.
Asked how common people could come and play here if they are being restricted right at the gate, she said, “We cannot allow everybody to come here and play. There is a process and one needs to follow that.”
An 18-year-old athlete, who was standing outside the Indira Gandhi Sports Complex, had come from Ghaziabad to learn gymnastics here, but even he was stopped at the gate. On the condition of anonymity, he said, “I have come all the way from Ghaziabad and they won’t allow me inside. They said I cannot get trained as I am overage.” he added.
The Sunday Guardian also made several attempts to contact the Secretary SAI, Director General SAI, and also Vijay Goel, Union Minister for Sports and Youth Affairs, requesting them to grant this newspaper access to the stadiums to see the sporting facilities, but there was no response from any of them till the time of going to press.
However, The Sunday Guardian could access the stadiums maintained by the NDMC and visited the Shivaji Stadium for hockey and the Talkatora Stadium for boxing along with the S.P. Mukherjee Swimming Pool complex.
The stadium could not be completed for the Commonwealth Games and was inaugurated in October 2012. This stadium does not have any training academy attached to it and is only used when it is rented out for hockey matches to either corporates, schools or other organisations.
The stadium’s ground seemed to be maintained, but the building was not in a healthy state. Plasters from the ceilings were peeling off. The toilets were not well maintained, fire systems and smoke detectors were not functioning and the dressing room could barely be used.
A stadium official told this correspondent that they did not have any machines to maintain the ground and the staff manually maintains the entire ground. “We have requestd several times for machines to be provided to us, but to no avail. There is a shortage of staff as well, so we prepare the grounds only when there is a match because it takes a lot of manual labour,” he said.
According to the organiser of the Nehru Hockey Society, under whose patronage the hockey tournament was underway, the charges for the stadiums are too high for students and schools to afford. “They charge Rs 5,000 per day and for floodlights they charge Rs 10,000 per hour. They should make it free, at least for schools,” Kuku Walia, secretary general of the Nehru Hockey Society, said.
Talkatora Stadium is also maintained by the NDMC and was refurbished during the Commonwealth Games by spending about Rs 150 crore for hosting boxing matches, but is today mostly used for commercial events.
Although the stadium has a boxing coaching facility available, boxing training is conducted only in the underground parking of the stadium and students are not allowed inside the stadium.
The guard on duty said that the indoor stadium is only accessible during any event. He also said that mostly, the indoor stadium is now used for either commercial purposes or for tennis matches and boxing is rarely conducted there.
On entering the indoor stadium, some chairs in the gallery were found to be broken and some even missing. The boxing court, which has now been made into a tennis court was properly maintained. The stadium manager was unavailable for comment.
S.P. Mukherjee Swimming Complex
One of the largest swimming complexes in Delhi, it has three all-weather swimming pools, including a diving pool, main pool, warm up pool. During the Commonwealth Games, the swimming competitions were all held here and now the complex is being used to train young swimmers from across the country.
The Sunday Guardian saw that the pools were well maintained and an attendant on duty monitored the temperature of the water every two hours. Medical facilities and life guards were also present at all times.
Praveen Kakkar, administrator of the swimming complex, said, “We have been trying to provide best quality experience to train swimmers here, so that they can become our future Olympians. We also encourage people to come and register for swimming classes here and we have five coaches available with us.” The Complex has also started a residential programme for swimmers and currently has 28 kids from various states enrolled to train to become professional swimmers. “We have also signed an MoU with Glenmark Aquatic Foundation who would provide us with foreign coaches for our students here,” Kakkar added.