The Sports Authority of India (SAI) has suggested to the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) that the National Games be either scrapped or be conducted at their centres that have ready infrastructure. SAI director general Jiji Thomson conveyed this to the newly-elected IOA president N Ramachandran in a meeting held in New Delhi last week. Ramachandran said the IOA was open to examining the possibility of hosting the future National Games at SAI centres but was opposed to the idea of scrapping the event.
Though the National Games are scheduled to be held once in two years, thing haven’t gone as planned. The 35th National Games in Kerala were originally scheduled to be held in 2009. However, due to the backlog of previous Games the event had to be postponed. Despite the five-year delay, the state isn’t ready to host the event as majority of the venues are still incomplete. The event is now scheduled to be held in January 2015.
“We need to take a close, hard look at the way we are treating what is supposed to be our premier national tournament. The edition that was supposed to be held five years ago is not yet conducted. The top athletes give it a skip, which takes some sheen away from it. So why not scrap the tournament and put the money to better use. Alternately, if we cannot scrap the event, we should hold it at SAI centres,” Thomson suggested.
In his note to former sports secretary PK Deb, Thomson said conducting the National Games at SAI centres would not only save money but also help in organising the event on schedule. The Kerala government has spent close to Rs 600 crore in Games-related preparations and the sports ministry has contributed Rs 150 crore. “It may be argued that the intention is to build new infrastructure. If it is so, then we should closely verify how this newly built infrastructure is put to productive use. The excellent facilities built in Ranchi, Assam, Hyderabad, Pune etc., are all lying either idle or partially used,” he noted.
He added: “Today, the National Coaching Camps are held in NS NIS, Patiala, Delhi, Shillaroo, Bhopal, Kolkata, Bangalore and Trivandrum, where good sports facilities are lacking, thanks to the paucity of funds. In such a scenario, how do we justify providing crores of rupees to the State Governments for construction of infrastructure for National Games which, in any case, are not achieving its objectives?”
Since the IOA was suspended back then, SAI and sports ministry could not follow up on the issue. However, Thomson held a meeting with Ramachandran last week in which the proposal was made.
Ramachandran dismissed the idea of scrapping the National Games, he was open to conducting at SAI centres. “National Games are conducted by the Indian Olympic Association. When they are held in different states, it does popularise various sports. So scrapping the event is completely out of question,” Ramachandran said. “The IOA will examine the possibility of conducting such events at SAI Centers if this saves cost and if the host state is willing to do so.”