Another challenge beckons

Another challenge beckons

National Games

Another challenge beckons

WORLD CLASS: Shooters were all smiles after being provided with a modern range at the National Games in Ranchi. PTI

Having earned praise from most quarters for putting up some wonderful infrastructure for the National Games, Jharkhand has two important questions to answer — What’s next and how do we put this massive infrastructure to good use?

Jharkhand Olympic Association, despite severe criticism over construction delays, showed it too can be a force to reckon with, turning a barren land into an impressive Birsa Munda Sports Complex which is spread over nearly 300 acres.

A spanking new athletics stadium, a sprawling shooting range with the most modern facilities, a temperature-controlled swimming pool, an ultra-modern cycling velodrome and three indoor stadiums drew cheers from all participating athletes with most saying these are on par with some of the top facilities in the world.

“It certainly is top class,” said seasoned shooter Samresh Jung, a multiple gold medal winner at the 2002 and 2006 Commonwealth Games in Manchester and Melbourne respectively. “I’ve been to Delhi (2006 Commonwealth) and many World Cups and this venue — Tikait Umrao Shooting Range — is no way lesser. In fact, I would not be surprised if National Rifle Association of India decides to have some its camps here,” added the man dubbed ‘Goldfinger’. His views were seconded by National coach Sunny Thomas.

On the track and field front, athletes Preeja Sreedharan, Kavita Raut and Joseph Abraham, who won medals at last November’s Asian Games in Guangzhou, also expressed delight over the facilities after early apprehension. A look at the venues certainly vindicates their statements.

Jharkhand also scored very highly on the crowd factor with many events running to packed houses. While the people of Ranchi were overwhelmed by the novelty factor, cashing in on the opportunity to witness the State’s biggest event, the organisers also deserve credit for throwing open the gates and welcoming in the fans.

Coming back to the stadiums, yes, they did boast of good facilities for the athletes and public but a few question marks remained until the end over media facilities – a very important factor for staging international events – and the Results Management System. Although such flaws can be corrected over time, the most important element Jharkhand needs to address is in not letting their hard work rot over time.

The purpose of fighting for the rights to host any sporting event is not about showing one’s muscle power but to provide sport in that particular state a major morale boost. It is done to inspire youngsters and provide them an opportunity to hone their skills.

With the infrastructure in place, the host State gets an opportunity to groom its young talent but only if it puts the facilities to good use. Take the case of Bangalore, the hosts of the 1996 edition. A clutch of stadiums were built or renovated for the National Games then but it took a long while before the athletes could get to use the facilities.

Maintenance is another important factor. The plight of the Sree Kanteerava indoor stadium is even more pathetic with pigeon drops dotting the arena. To make things worse, the stadium is routinely rented out for exhibitions with reasoning being ‘to generate revenue’.

The problem lies not just with Bangalore, a visit across the cities that have hosted the National Games may reveal a similar picture. It is here Jharkhand needs to learn and probably set an example. They have to lay a huge emphasis on maintenance, perhaps more than the interest they showed in grabbing the hosting rights. They need to develop and harness a sporting programme, making sure the facilities are put to the right use rather than leave them as monuments signifying pride.

Only time can tell what Jharkhand will make out of the National Games. Hopefully, they will utilise the facilities in the best possible manner, churning out champions for the future.

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