How not to conduct an event

Indian athletes at the Opening Ceremony of the IWAS Games at the Kanteerava Stadium in Bangalore.-G. P. SAMPATH KUMAR

There were quite a few stirring performances at the IWAS Games in Bangalore recently. However, the conduct of the event left a lot to be desired.

The week-long International Wheelchair and Amputee Sports (IWAS) World Games in Bangalore recently was all about the triumph of grit and determination.

Col. Rajendra Rawat recalled the IPKF operations in Jaffna in 1988, when he was caught in a blast that ripped away his right leg above the knee. He was only 21 then. Twenty-one years later, Rawat won a gold medal for India in the golf event of the IWAS Games and he was very proud of it. “I was coaxed into playing golf by my boss, and instead of sulking I embraced the game. This gold is a testimony to the pains I suffered,” said Rawat.

Czyz Wojtek, a former professional football player from Germany, suffered a grievous injury during a match about eight years ago. At the IWAS Games, Wojtek, 29, a sports management student in Cologne, proudly exhibited his three gold medals. “I came here for four, but had to hobble off the tracks in the 200m at the halfway mark. I won the 100m and the long jump golds,” he said.

Wojtek’s effort in long jump included an amazing leap of 6.72 metres. It wasn’t a world record though since the wind speed was more than the permissible limit.

Devender Jharjhia of Rajasthan lost his left arm after he had suffered an electric shock. He, however, went on to win the javelin gold in the Athens Paralympics. Now 28, the stocky athlete landed the javelin gold at the IWAS Games with a 57.09m, which was far below his effort in Athens where he touched over 62m.

Stories such as these were aplenty. They were poignant too. And that’s why the callousness of the organisers — the Paralympic Committee of India (PCI) — in not providing even the basic necessities to these differently-abled sportspersons (634 athletes from 37 countries) was shocking.

At the IWAS Games, 10 disciplines were held at five venues with wheel-chair rugby and sitting volleyball being demonstration sports. “The crisis in the state government, floods in north Karnataka and the change of guard (minister in charge),” were the excuses given by the organisers for the poor conduct of the event. The organisers themselves were conspicuous by their absence for two full days after the inaugural ceremony.

Chaos and confusion prevailed even with respect to matters such as whether national anthems should be played during the medals ceremony or not. And in the powerlifting competitions, the medals were in short supply. While the event was allotted to Bangalore a good two years ago — during the Games in Chinese Taipei in 2007 — ahead of bids from Pune, Hyderabad and Chattisgarh, the organisers did nothing with regard to the infrastructure for the wheelchair-bound athletes. The ramps and wheelchair-friendly toilets were a far cry until a week before the event commenced at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium on November 24. More importantly, transportation was pathetic to say the least.

“At times we have to disassemble and assemble our wheelchair or put it in small uncomfortable vans and mini buses,” complained some athletes. The Indian athletes were not spared either. Most of them did not get their accreditation cards (as did many journalists) even on the last day and were often stopped from entering the playing arena.

The problems did not end there. There was no media centre for the first three days of the event.

“All of us are learning from experience from every Games, so are the athletes. There were some teething problems but from day three onwards things fell in place,” said Ms. Maura Strange, Secretary-General of the IWAS Federations. A strange remark indeed.

For the record, India surpassed all expectations to win 110 medals, including 32 gold, to finish second behind China. Thailand with 61 medals finished third.

* * * SAIL to present Hero Honda World Cup

The International Hockey Federation (FIH) and Hockey India (HI) have announced that Steel Authority of India (SAIL) will be the Presenting Partner for the Hero Honda FIH World Cup 2010, to be hosted by India in March 2010.

The event, held every four years, will now be referred to as the Hero Honda FIH World Cup, presented by SAIL. An agreement to the effect was signed by the FIH President Leandro Negre and SAIL Director (Personnel) G. Ojha in the presence of the Union Minister for Steel, Virbhadra Singh, and the Union Minister of State, A. Sai Prathap, in New Delhi recently.

Among other dignitaries present on the occasion were Steel Secretary Atul Chaturvedi, SAIL Chairman S. K. Roongta, Hockey India President A. K. Mattoo and Olympians and former India captains Zafar Iqbal, Ajit Pal Singh and Jagbir Singh.

* * * In aid of sportswomen

K. GOPINATHAN

The public perception of women sports achievers has been limited to a few high profile stars such as Sania Mirza and Saina Nehwal. Though there are several outstanding sportswomen including shooter Anjali Bhagwat, boxer Mary Kom and squash star Deepika Pallikal and snooker and billiards ace Chitra Magimairaj, they hardly evoke much appreciation for their feats. This public apathy has deeply affected Anuradha Namashivaya (pic, above), a Bangalore dentist and an aerobic expert, who has now taken up the task of putting the lesser-known sportswomen in the spotlight.

“It was shocking to note how little we know of them and their feats. I thought, we should do something about it,” said Anuradha.

She started off by floating a company called ‘Sports Divaz’, which will launch a multi-platform campaign through brochures, calendars, talk shows, interactive sessions with the public and the media to create awareness about the unsung women achievers in sports.

As a first step, Anuradha unveiled a sports calendar with top sportswomen in the country. The desktop calendar features P. T. Usha, Karnam Malleswari, Anjali Bhagwat, Dola Banerjee, Rohini Rau, Anju Bobby George, Anu Vaidyanathan, Chitra Magimairaj and Dipika Pallikal. The calendar will be offered to corporate houses and a part of the proceeds will be donated to the P. T. Usha Sports Foundation and the Sikshana Foundation for young sportswomen.

“It was a tough call, but all sportswomen whom I contacted for my venture readily supported me and so did corporate leaders like Mr. Srinivasan of the TVS Group,” said Anuradha.

The launch ceremony was held at the Jyothi Nivas College for women in Bangalore and was well attended by the sportswomen, who spoke about their hardships in gaining recognition.

Mary Kom spoke about her impoverished early life and how her whole village was against her taking up boxing as a career and how she overcame the hurdles. Dola Banerjee said that despite all the odds she faced in becoming an ace archer, her parents stood by her. Karnam Malleswari, perhaps, had the last word when she said, “We sportswomen have to prove 50 per cent more than the sportsmen to achieve recognition.”

However, now that they have Sports Divaz to take up their cause, sportswomen can certainly look forward to a better deal.

By Avinash Nair & Kalyan Ashok