“Best of opportunities will be provided to all sportspersons in their endeavour to make India a strong sporting nation.” These were the words of newly-appointed Sports Minister Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore on September 3, 2017, when he took charge of Sports Ministry to change the face of Indian Sports. The message was clear, he said that if our country wants to produce more competent athletes and want them to win medals at an international level, the most vital thing is to give them every possible facility that they need. But how much these big words and promises to revamp Indian Sports are executed can only be found at the base level.
However, the ongoing State Level Pre University Athletic meet in Mysore, Karnataka is not showing any glimpses of the promises made by the Sports Ministry. A lot of players and coaches from various districts like Dharwad, Raichur, Belgaum, Gadag, Kolar etc. can be found complaining about the shelter and water-related issues in the event. Around 800 players from these 9 districts are staying in a single hall, which does not have any bed, mattresses, fans and an adequate number of toilets.
The Athlete meet is being organised by Pre University Education Board, Mysore District, Mysore from 23rd – 26th Nov 2018. Approximately 1000-1500 athletes from 30 districts of Karnataka have come to participate in events like Long Jump, Javelin Throw, Discuss throw, Triple Jump 200 Mts., 400 Mts., 800 Mts., 3000 Mts., and Cross Country in the meet.
No beds, no safety
Sajjan (name changed), a second-year B.com student from Dharwad District, who came to participate in 400 mts. sprint event told to The Logical Indian, “Around 800 players have been accommodated in a single hall. Only four toilets are available for us and they are also not properly maintained. Very few bed sheets were given to us and they were also torn. They were claiming that they had installed CCTV camera in that hall for the safety of our belongings, but one of my friend’s mobile phone was stolen yesterday. We complained to authorities for this theft but no action was taken.”
Mr Nitish M Chiniwar, founder, Bridges of Sports Foundation, who came with the Dharwad district team, told that this kind of thing has become common in such events. He said, “There has been similar kind of issue in the past events as well. The Government does not pay any attention to it.”
He added, “There are no facilities for these players. We talk about our poor performance in the Olympics and other international events. But, here in villages, players are still fighting for their basic needs. The pitiful conditions of athletes can be understood by the fact that 60-70 per cent of participating athletes did not have shoes for their events.”
In one of the cross-country running event, players were supposed to cover a distance of 6 km. But, there were no water drinking points for the players during the race. These players were told to have water at the starting or the ending point of the race. There was no medical facility too. When Mr Chiniwar brought up these issues to the organisers, he claims he was told, “It is difficult to organise these kinds of events and this is the best we can provide.”
He further mentioned, “In these kinds of events, a common fake age issue is also seen, where some athletes show fake age certificates which are not validated by the officials. Older players compete with less experienced younger players and win medals. There is no process to check these kinds of incidents which demotivates younger athletes to move further.”
The Logical Indian tried to contact the Deputy Director’s of Pre University Education Board’s office for answers but they remained unavailable for comment.
The Logical Indian Take
The situation above paints a depressing, yet all too familiar scene. Petty corruption and lack of basic infrastructure plagues the Indian sports scene. The emergence of assorted leagues have rejuvenated at least few sports in India but the bulk of the funding goes to sports with potentially high viewership. In the absence of funding, players are more or less treated as cattle. Using the tax payer’s money for sports perhaps does come at a lower priority than funding for schools, hospitals and ending hunger. However, this is a state level event. The players participating here are theoretically one-two step away from representing the country. If we cherish and expect medals from our athletes at international events, then perhaps we should at least try to understand how difficult the journey truly is.