By Navneet Singh
New Delhi, March 24 (IANS) A last-minute change of venue, from Chennai to Bangalore, for the 19th National Para Athletics Championships forced para-athletes to undergo a harrowing time. Almost all the athletes had reached Chennai for the competition that started on Wednesday, and then had to rush to Bangalore, an exercise that forced them to spend more money on travel and accommodation, besides enduring a lot of inconvenience.
With surge in new coronavirus cases in Tamil Nadu, the Paralympic Committee of India (PCI) shifted the championships venue at the eleventh hour after the state government cancelled permission to host the four-day competition.
“After reaching Chennai from Haryana, I was told that the venue had changed. Immediately, I rushed to Bengaluru to make hotel arrangements. I had to pay a bit more for accommodation but I didn’t have any choice at that moment,” one of the participants told IANS from Bengaluru.
Deepa Malik, a 2016 Rio Olympic medallist and PCI president, wasn’t available for a comment. She didn’t respond to text messages too.
The competition is now being organised at Kanteerava Stadium and Vidyanagar Stadium in Bengaluru.
The Sports Authority of India (SAI), too, raised concern about the lack of facilities in Bengaluru. Arrangement for wheelchair athletes and Covid-19 protocols are amongst the things lacking in Bengaluru, said athletes.
Last week, the PCI in a statement to the respective state associations had said that the national federation regretted to inform that the Tamil Nadu government had cancelled permission to conduct the event at the last minute.
“There are some problems. I hope it will be improved by Thursday,” said another competitor.
“It has been brought to the notice of SAI that the facility in Bengaluru is not wheelchair-friendly and that Standard Operating Procedures for prevention of Covid-19 are not being adhered to,” SAI said in a statement on Wednesday.
The SAI said it has written to the PCI to ensure that the issues were sorted at the earliest and the competition was conducted in a safe and successful manner. “SAI has sought a report from the federation in this regard,” the SAI statement said.