More than 200 players, including national-level para athletes from all over India, were left struggling for accommodation and food facilities during the 18th National Para Athletics Championship which was inaugurated by Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar and Union Minister Rao Inderjit Singh, president of Paralympic Committee of India, at the Tau Devi Lal Sports Complex, Sector 3, Panchkula, on Sunday. While most of the athletes, including Rio Olympics silver medallist Deepa Malik and last year’s world championship silver medallist Amit Saroha, will arrive in Panchkula on Monday to take part in the championship, other players complained about poor arrangements by the Paralympic Committee of India.
“We arrived about 9 pm yesterday and faced problems with accommodation at the stadium complex. There was nobody to guide us and most of the athletes were given mattresses on the floor. The para-athletes on wheelchairs had to wait for more than two hours to use washrooms. The food was half-cooked. After we complained to the officials, we were shifted to Kisan Bhawan in Chandigarh. However, the arrangements were good today,” said 35-year-old Suvarna Raj who competes in table tennis wheelchair category and had won the gold and bronze medal in Para Table Tennis Championship in Thailand Open in 2013.
More than 2,000 players are expected to take part in the four-day-long championship. While the federation made arrangements at the stadium complex and newly built all-purpose stadium and hall apart from some dharmshalas and bhavans in the Tricity, players complained about the venues not being wheelchair-friendly and having facilities for such players.
“Most of the players faced trouble in accessing washrooms. There were about 30 wheelchair-bound players, who faced difficulties at the multipurpose hall. We are okay with sleeping on mattresses in the hall but there should be better washrooms and wheelchair facilities. Later, the officials shifted some players to Chandigarh and Panchkula and provided help to the athletes at the complex,” said Sonu Rawat, an athlete from Uttarakhand who will compete in 100 M race.
Last year’s world championship silver athlete Amit Saroha believes that the host cities need to have better facilities for the wheelchair players and other para-athletes. “We have to understand that most of the cities and buildings in India are not built keeping in mind the needs of para athletes or wheelchair use. Para sports in India are growing rapidly and more than 2,000 athletes are taking part in the championship. The athletes should understand this and concentrate on winning medals rather than complaining about lack of facilities. Last year, the federation accommodated most of the players in hotels and there were objections about the bill of Rs 2 crore. Government should also support the para sports and federation,” said Saroha.
Secretary general of Paralympic Committee of Haryana Giriraj Singh could not be contacted despite repeated attempts.