The 2022 Commonwealth Games organising committee’s decision two years ago to move away from a single-site athletes’ village in suburban Perry Barr in northern Birmingham, keeping the coronavirus pandemic in mind, received mixed reactions then.
Many felt it was the safest bet. However, some voices insisted sportspersons would miss out on the opportunity to interact with top athletes across sports under the same roof. Many athletes look forward to such interactions at multi-discipline tournaments. Most weren’t sure how it would all pan out.
A small group of the Indian athletics contingent that landed in Birmingham barely 24 hours ahead of the opening ceremony had a draining experience. The athletes did not know which micro-village they were headed to.
They could be housed either in one of the four villages at The University of Birmingham, The University of Warwick, The NEC Hotel campus, or the Park Regis, City Centre. The satellite village in London was not an option.
“We don’t know where we are headed,” laughed 400m runner Amoj Jacob. “Hopefully, we will be provided with a bus outside the airport.” He stayed calm, managing to see the funny side of things.
One of the coaches, who recently recovered from a bout of Covid-19, said, “I am not well. I’d rather have been at home. Plus, it is sad we don’t know where we are going. Hopefully, that gets figured out soon. It is exhausting.”
To add to the athletes’ issues, a couple of checked-in trolleys turned up damaged on the baggage carousel. “ Arey ye bag laundry mein kaun bheja thha (who sent this bag to the laundry)?” asked another coach, possibly to cheer up the athletes. It had the desired effect. The team broke into laughter.