If a last-minute change of venue, from Chennai to Bangalore, for the 19th National Para Athletics Championships was not harrowing enough, para-athletes at the ongoing meet were in for a rude shock on Wednesday night as the shot put event was conducted with help from mobile phone torch lights and car headlights at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium. This event is a qualification competition for Tokyo 2020 Paralympics.
Reports suggest that massive delays during the day had resulted in events slipping beyond sunset and the organisers did not use the available floodlights.
According to The Hindu, neither Satyanarayana, the Bengaluru-based chairman of the Technical Committee of Paralympic Committee of India (PCI) nor Gursharan Singh, Secretary-General of PCI, were available for comment.
However, this is not the first time that PCI came under scrutiny, their move to hold the competition at a venue not friendly to wheelchairs had also raised eyebrows. There were multiple reports of Covid-19 breaches, including not adhering to SOPs, a fact acknowledged by the Sports Authority of India.
Sports Authority of India on Wednesday sought a report from the Paralympic Committee of India. “It has been brought to the notice of Sports Authority of India that the facility in Bengaluru at which the Para Athletics National Championships is not wheelchair-friendly and that Standard Operating Procedures for prevention of COVID-19 are not being adhered to. SAI has written to PCI to ensure that these issues are sorted at the earliest and the competition is conducted in a safe and successful manner. SAI has sought a report from the Federation in this regard.” SAI said in a statement.
As for the change in venue from Chennai to Bengaluru, the PCI can’t be entirely blamed for the eleventh-hour decision as the state government cancelled permission to host the four-day competition.
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 inconveniences.