By Navneet Singh
New Delhi, Feb 3 (IANS) Athletes who are competing in the National Junior Championships, starting this Saturday in Guwahati, will not be provided even drinking water by the organisers, forget boarding and lodging, due to which some athletes have borrowed money to travel all the way to Assam and compete.
An athlete from a northern state said he has borrowed around Rs 12,000 to travel by rain to Guwahati — a 36-hour journey from his home city — and has made his own boarding and lodging arrangements so that he could compete in the five-day championships.
The unprecedented decision to not provide boarding and lodging facilities has been taken as per the guidelines enumerated in the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) of the Assam Athletics Association (AAA), said its secretary.
“We aren’t allowed to even provide drinking water to athletes [during the championships]. This is being done keeping in mind health and safety of the athletes and to avoid spread of the Covid-19 virus,” AAA secretary Ashok Kumar told IANS over the phone from Guwahati.
And, as per the SOP of the Assam government, it is mandatory for athletes to carry a negative Covid-19 RT-PCR test report to avail accommodation in Guwahati. “It’s also compulsory for athletes to provide a negative report to compete. If someone doesn’t have he/she will not be allowed to enter the competition,” said Kumar.
In previous years the organisers have always provided boarding and lodging facilities for all the competing athletes. At the 2019 edition, held in Guntur, Andhra Pradesh, organisers had made all the arrangements for the competing athletes. The 2020 edition wasn’t staged due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
A majority of the athletes will face hardship as they will have to bear all the expenses during the five-day competition that is to take place at the Indira Gandhi Sports Complex. Participants will have to make arrangement for drinking water during the competition, which could further add to their woes.
Water is an important ingredient of athletics and athletes need lots of water during practice and competitions to help them recover. But competitors at the Junior National Championships will have to carry water, and this distraction could impact their performance.
Some athletes are already dreading what would happen in and outside the competition, besides travelling long distances by train to reach Guwahati.
A school-going athlete from a northern state, who will compete in the under-18 category, said he has borrowed money from relatives to go for the championships. “I’ve had to make arrangement of about Rs.12,000. The train journey takes 36 hours to reach Guwahati,” the budding athlete told IANS.
Another athlete said he was looking for an average accommodation due to paucity of funds. “I’m looking at Rs.800/per day accommodation in Guwahati. Let’s see what happens there,” he said from the train on his way to the Assam capital.
Even in this gloomy scenario, there are a few states, like Athletics Haryana, that are helping out athletes partially, like paying for half of the railway fare. “Athletes who wanted some funds were given while some said they would manage on their own,” said Raj Kumar, secretary of the Haryana unit. Haryana is fielding 159 athletes in the competition.
Delhi-based former international athlete and coach Dinesh Rawat, said the Delhi State Athletics Association is also meeting half of the railway fare of the participants. “We also provided playing kit to the athletes,” he said.
While it could be less taxing for athletes from North-Eastern states to reach Guwahati, those travelling from far off places like Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Uttarakhand, and Punjab will have to undertake a minimum of 36-hour train journey to reach Guwahati and then make their own boarding and lodging arrangements, besides other logistics.
Nearly 1,600 budding athletes are expected to be seen in action in four age categories — under-14, under-16, under-18, and under-20 — in boys and girls sections of the competition.
Adille Sumariwalla, president of Athletics Federation of India (AFI) said: “AFI has successfully organised Junior Federation Cup at Bhopal in the last week of January, and we expect good result in Guwahati too.”