Bhubaneswar: Social media is abuzz with debates and discussions about sporting events and public expectations ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
However, many sports enthusiasts and players in the city feel that a lot more is needed to encourage sportspersons, especially to boost indoor games.
Interacting with this reporter, sports enthusiasts lamented lack of multipurpose, open-to-all, government indoor sports halls in the city to sharpen their skills in games like table tennis, badminton, squash and basketball. Although there are private spaces in the City, many complain about huge charges or unavailability of suitable time slots over there.
“Ironically, there is just one open-to-all table tennis indoor hall at Sahid Nagar to meet the needs of scores of enthusiasts in the City. Hence, there is certainly dearth of infrastructure when it comes to indoor sports complexes. A single available facility catering to several will lead to crowding,” said Prabhat Hembram, a professional coach.
However, there are about five private badminton clubs in the City in addition to two indoor halls at the East Coast Railway stadium and Unit I. While practitioners were allowed to use Sports Authority of India-run ‘Odisha SAI Regional Badminton Academy’, now the facility is exclusively being used by trainees at SAI students.
People have free access to Imfa and Kalinga stadia to play tennis in the town. Though plans were afoot to build a multipurpose indoor hall at Kalinga Stadium since 2013, it is yet to see the light of the day.
When contacted, Sports Secretary Vishal Dev said they intend to utilise Kalinga indoor hall for badminton practice before the High Performance Centre coming up jointly in collaboration with the Pullela Gopichand Academy.
“The academy will take at least 18 months to complete construction. Once the main building is built, it can open to other sports like basketball, judo and karate” said Dev.
Sharing his experience, Durga Prasad Dalai, father of table tennis player Sweta Padma, said, “She (Sweta) took up the game as she was good at it. But in states like West Bengal, you will find at least 10 table tennis clubs in an area as big as Sahid Nagar here. When we lack adequate infrastructure we’ll surely lose out on athletic potential as well.”
Urban planner Piyush Ranjan Rout said getting proper infrastructure in place is the key to encourage sports culture. “When people have access to facilities for playing various games at one place, it will encourage them to pursue sports more actively. Indoor spaces are most suitable for practice in games professionally as well.”
The Sports department claimed it was developing the infrastructure in the city. “We along with the Bhubaneswar Municipal Corporation are planning to set up at least one sporting facility in five BMC administrative zones. Discussions are underway and land has to be identified,” said Vishal Dev.
Nivedita Nayak, OP