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AFRO-ASIAN GAMES: Infrastructure (2/10/2002)
The 90-Nation extravaganza, the inaugural Afro-Asian Games, is hardly five months away yet the momentum to improve the infrastructure is yet to pick up. As of now neither is a grass removed nor is a stone spruced up despite tall talk by powers that be. The bureaucracy refuses to move beyond its wonted snail pace even as the enormity tasks increases each day passes by.

The immediate cause of concern is hosting hockey events. The existing worn-out turf of the National stadium has to be replaced while a new basement and a turf have to be laid in its adjoining area. As per the global body Federation Internationale de Hockey, two water based synthetic grounds are mandatory for hosting any international tournament with floodlight facility in one of them.

While scoreboard whether digital alpha-metric or video-metric could be available in India - but costlier - the synthetic turfs have to be imported from USA, Holland or Australia as not only India but no Asian country manufacture them.

Top four men’s team of Asia and Africa would vie for the honours in the National stadium, a property of Sports Authority of India whereas the 8-team women event is slated for the Shivaji stadium which is a property of New Delhi Municipal Committee.

According to Akilesh Kumar, Director(infrastructure), SAI, the existing basement in the national stadium also needs to be top-asphalted as the surface has developed unevenness due to constant use in the last twenty years. “our tenders include this work also”, he adds.

In order to cut short time, Sports Ministry, Government of India, has taken a policy decision not to float global tender, which would have taken at least three months time to process, but only to invite public sectors. It is gathered agencies like Engineering Projects Construction Company and IRCON have responded to SAI’s tender.

According to Amar Bharadwaj, Administrator, National Stadium, the Forest Department of Delhi has accorded permission to clear about 33 trees standing on the ground where the new basement and turf are to be laid. “14 trees can be cut and others are to transplanted”, he said. The transplantation is a serious activity and it would again entail tendering process.

However, Amrit Mathur, Secretary, SAI and now doubles up as head of its Afro-Asian Games Cell oozes confidence. “We will be awarding contracts by first week of June and all works will be completed before September 30, our deadline. Instead of awarding each item to different parties, this time we will be entrusting all works to one party to ensure speedy completion”.

The impediment in the plan is monsoon which will hamper civil works involved. “Our target dates take into account this factor also,” Mathur counters.

Indian Hockey Federation Secretary Jothi Kumaran, foresees no problem in completion of works. “what is important is political will and rest will fall in line. For the SAF Games, Mayor Radhakrishnan stadium was constructed within six months with stands, three storeyed gallery, lifts and VIP ante rooms because the then Chief Minister was after it. Before that only a pond existed there. This time too political will is there.”

But ground progress does not conform such optimism. For example, in last four months NDMC could only roll back the worn-out turf at Shivaji stadium. Insiders claim now a new committee has been formed and it will follow the things up. At National stadium, the things remain as it is except CPWD would carry out routine improvement in the gallery in short time.

According to Suresh Bajaj, only Indian dealer for AstroTurf, an FIH approved brand, once an order is placed, it takes 4 to 5 weeks for the manufacturer to supply the material, 6 to 7 weeks for shipment and two weeks for inland transport. That is in any case three months. He says, “This is true for every brand. We have the order for Shivaji stadium and this will reach in June.”

As regards National stadium, the order for turf is yet to be placed. Previously, SAI used to directly do it but now it has to rely on other public sectors. On asked whether this would speed up the things or slacken, Bajaj chuckes, “Your guess is as good as mine”

One more bugbear is provision of floodlight facility. According to many, installation of floodlight is not a time consuming affair but getting clearance from multiple agencies such as Vista Committee, Urban Arts Committee etc of Delhi Government are, as National stadium campus falls under the Gateway of India area.

According to IHF chief KPS Gill, he is in touch with the FIH to seek waive off the stipulation and is hopeful of positive response. “Union Minister of Sports Uma Bharati has agreed in principle to provide floodlights in National stadium once all the clearances are in place” he says.

It is generally observed the FIH does not mind lack of floodlights in the case

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