Asian athletics meet: Doubts linger over Bhubaneswar’s Kalinga Stadium

The Asian championship, which attracts some 45 countries, was scheduled to be held from June 1 to 4 but has now been postponed to July 1-4.

The biggest worry is whether floodlights can be installed at the Kalinga Stadium (pic) before the June 15 deadline.   -  Ashoke Chakrabarty

The work on re-laying the synthetic track has started and renovation is on at the Kalinga Stadium but doubts linger over whether Bhubaneswar will be able to host the 22nd Asian athletics championship despite the event being postponed from June to July.

Recent agency reports suggested that the Odisha capital had been confirmed as the new venue after Ranchi opted out, but that is not the case.

“It is not confirmed yet. We are working on it but it’s not yet finalised,” a senior Athletics Federation of India (AFI) official told Sportstar on Saturday.

“The Odisha Government is very interested and but it is apprehensive about whether all the work can be completed within the short period of time. The big worry is whether floodlights can be installed at the Kalinga Stadium before the June 15 deadline; that is just about three months.”

The Asian championship, which attracts some 45 countries, was scheduled to be held from June 1 to 4 but has now been postponed to July 1-4.

Senior AFI officials met Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik on Saturday, and he has sought a report in a couple of days on the state of things at the Kalinga Stadium.

“We will know about it in a few days. The track is not a big issue. We have given an assurance that the track work will be completed on time. And money is not an issue; the Odisha Government has promised us that,” said the AFI official. “But if there is rain while the floodlight work is on... that’s the worry. If there had been floodlights at the stadium, there would have been no worry at all.”

While the Odisha is very keen to host the event, it does not want any negative news around if there is a delay due to unforeseen circumstances.

So, in case Bhubaneswar backs out, what are the other options at short notice?

“Delhi, Chennai and Hyderabad come to my mind,” said the official. “Delhi and Chennai since the Jawaharlal Nehru stadiums in both these cities host the ISL and is in good condition because of that. And the Hyderabad stadium because the AMC (annual maintenance contract) is quite effective there, and the stadium appears to be in good condition. But who will sponsor the event at the last minute?”

But Delhi’s Nehru Stadium may not be available because it is getting ready for the FIFA under-17 World Cup in October while the Sri Lanka issue in Chennai, which had forced the AFI to shift the Asian Championship from the Southern city to Pune in 2013, could pop up once again.

So, will the Asian meet go to Hyderabad this time?