Mumbai's Rs 250-cr stadium far from ready to host IBL tonight

At the inauguration of the refurbished Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel Stadium in National Sports Club Of India (NSCI) earlier this month, CM Prithviraj Chavan expressed relief that the 10-year-long wait for the facility was finally over, calling the construction process an ‘ordeal,’ that ‘went on and on.’ But going by the condition of the stadium on the eve of the first match to be played there, the ordeal is far from over.

While the venue is scheduled to host the inaugural match in the Mumbai leg of the prestigious Indian Badminton League (IBL) today, the venue looked far from ready even yesterday.

The state of disarray was shocking for a venue that will host an international event that is aimed at taking badminton to a new level of excellence, with top players like Lee Chong Wei, Saina Nehwal, PV Sindhu and P Kashyap in action.

Work in progress: On the eve of the first match in Mumbai of the Indian Badminton League at NSCI stadium complex, Worli, the venue is still not ready for the high-profile event. Pic/Shadab Khan

Heaps of garbage greeted MiD DAY outside the venue. Inside, the situation was far worse -- the court -- on which the action will unfold at the Hyderabad Hotshots vs Pune Pistons tie -- still waiting to be laid and prepared. The iron frames that are to be used for branding inside the courts were yet to be positioned. Ironically, it was hailed by Chavan as a ‘world class venue,’ and even better than Delhi’s Siri Fort and Talkatora stadiums, which host badminton /squash and boxing events respectively.

This is by no means a stray incident. A cursory look at recent history will show that the build-up to most sporting events in India have been marred by utter lack of preparation and, of course, controversy.

In 2010, it was the Commonwealth Games in New Delhi that attracted worldwide criticism.

Before the 2011 cricket World Cup, there was anxiety and uncertainty over the completion of work at Wankhede Stadium, which had been selected to host the final. 

Picture ‘perfect’?
At Worli yesterday, however, organisers seemed confident that they would defy time and have everything in place on the hour of the match. IBL coordinator and Mumbai Badminton Association (MBA) Secretary Sunder Shetty insisted there was “no problem” and described the stadium as “perfect.” 

Tall task at hand: Sanket Shetty, venue manager, at the stadium yesterday. Pic/Jay Munagekar

The facts he revealed however spoke of poor organization, and belied his claims. “There is no reason to worry. There was a slight delay in laying the court. Of the five kinds of tape used to put together the court, only three had been sent in from Delhi.

We had to go in search for the same in Mumbai. Also, the garbage and other items lying outside the venue will be cleared by tonight. Once the main court is ready, everything will be cleared and set to stage the event tomorrow,” said Shetty.

Rs 250 crore: Amount spent on renovating the stadium
10 years: Time it took for the revamp
August 3, 2013: The day the stadium was inaugurated by Union Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde and Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan
3,150: The seating capacity of the air-conditioned stadium, which can be expanded to fit in another 2,500 persons

The stadium was not ready to host the event: Venue Manager
At first, venue manager Sanket Shetty echoed Shetty’s assurances. “There is nothing to worry about. We are working day and night to ensure that everything is ready for the tie tomorrow.

Over 24 hours remain for the matches to begin. Such issues happen anywhere, so Mumbai is not the only such venue,” he said, adding, “As there was a Chief Minister’s Relief Fund event for Uttarakhand victims on August 15, the stadium was handed over to us only on August 16. The piles of garbage and other issues are small and won’t take more than two to three hours to clear.”

However, Shetty soon contradicted himself, admitting, “The challenge for us was the fact that the stadium was not ready to host the event. We had to get the cable wiring done, telephone connections and Wi-FI facilities.”

Great expectations
The stadium was inaugurated amid much fanfare by Union Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde, Union Minister for Heavy Industries Praful Patel, state PWD and Tourism Minister Chhagan Bhujbal, and CM Chavan on August 3. The stadium has a host of sporting event lined up in its calendar this year.

Pic/Sameer Markande

The stadium, which used to host track cycling events earlier, is now the only air-conditioned indoor venue in the state that can host squash, table tennis and wrestling as well.

After the IBL, the SVPS will stage the World U-19 Table Tennis Championships in September and the World Karate Championships in December, when it will host participants from 45 nations.

Athletes speak
I am really surprised that the venue is still not ready. This shouldn’t have happened as it creates a bad impression. Such things happen in most of the tournaments in India. And it is the players who suffer in the end.

Mangirish Palekar

They don’t get to practice on the new courts. I don’t understand why the organisers wait for the last minute to get things ready. When will they get the courts ready? After the match?
-- Mangirish Palekar, former international player and coach at the Shuttlecraze Academy in Matunga Gymkhana

I feel that the courts should have been ready at least one day in advance so that the players could practice on it before the actual match. IBL is a big event for badminton, and this shouldn’t have been the case. I feel bad for the players. It definitely hurts me as a player. Everything related to IBL has been last minute, so I’m not surprised that even the court and venue are not ready. But they will make it ready on the day. So let’s hope for the best.
-- Sagar Chopra, former national player

It is very sad on part of the organisers that they were unable to get the courts and the venue ready on time. It’s not that the city hasn’t hosted any big events before. And IBL is not such a big event.

I feel that the venue should have been ready for the players to get a feel of it today. I hope things go fine and no player faces any problems.
-- Leroy D’SA, seven-time national doubles badminton champion

Fans speak
It is shocking that the authorities have failed to keep their promises. It is because of such people that our country is still a ‘developing; country. All this just creates a bad image of the country to the world.
-- Faisal Dayani, Andheri resident

How can one take an international league match so lightly? This clearly indicates how the authorities take everything casually and have clearly had no respect for the game. If you host a tournament, you should make sure that you have all the amenities in good condition. Otherwise, why host it at all?
-- Avinash Marada, Wadala resident

If the stadium wasn’t completely ready, the authorities should have selected some other venue to conduct the match in.
An international tournament cannot be taken lightly. This
is very irresponsible behaviour.
-- Amey Sawant, Jogeshwari resident

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