Mumbai University stadium in perilous state; missing planks spell danger

Updated: 08 December, 2018 12:09 IST | Hemal Ashar and Sundari Iyer | Mumbai

A venue that hosts schoolchildren for their sports days is in a serious state of disrepair, putting scores at risk; will MU act fast?

At certain junctures, the gaps were so wide that a child could miss a step and fall approximately 23 feet to the ground. Pic/Bipin Kokate
At certain junctures, the gaps were so wide that a child could miss a step and fall approximately 23 feet to the ground. Pic/Bipin Kokate

Students going to the Mumbai University (MU) stadium at Marine Lines have had to play a dangerous game of hop, skip and jump lately, thanks to the many gaping spaces on the benches in the spectator stands of the iconic track and field facility. When mid-day visited the stadium on Friday, the stands looked precarious.

At certain junctures, the gaps were so huge that a child could miss a step and fall on the ground. The stadium is the go-to destination for city athletes, with a number of schools and colleges holding their sports meets on the ground. But the broken benches in the spectator stands are proving to be a hazard. One misstep at a deck situated at an approximate height of 23 feet, and the child could have a dangerous fall.

Tragedy waiting to happen
A parent of a student who studies in a south Bombay school, which recently held a school sports day at the stadium, claimed, "The huge gaps in the stands mean we are waiting for a tragedy to happen. Children sitting on the topmost levels were hopping and jumping over loose planks and broken seats. It was scary."

At certain junctures, the gaps were so wide that a child could miss a step and fall approximately 23 feet to the ground

The stadium track has soaked up the sweat of Mumbai's most famous athletes at all levels. The likes of former sprint champion Adille Sumariwalla, legendary middle distance runner Eddie Sequeira, Mumbai's long distance stars L Leelamma and Satyabhama R, have all been regulars at the University grounds.

But, the spectator stands have been an on-off problem through all these years, being repaired sporadically, only to give way again. Savio D'Souza, from Mumbai's legendary Track Trotters club, who trained at MU through the 1970s to the 1990s and is now an athletics coach said, "Maybe, these problems have arisen because the stands are wooden. If we had cement stands, it is possible that they could be avoided."

Fully booked
Hardeep Singh Saini, Khalsa college's physical education teacher said, "MU authorities have just painted the wooden planks that form the stands, but the real danger persists. Are those in charge waiting for a major accident to take place to open their eyes?" Poor stand safety notwithstanding, the stadium is fully booked for the ongoing track and field season. There have been five school and college sports events in the past week alone, with the stadium playing host to the hugely popular Mumbai School Sports Association (MSSA) inter-school athletics meet on November 23, 24 and 25.

Frank Alphonso, an athletics official and former 5,000 and 10,000 m specialist said, "This stadium will continue to be a big draw. It is a very important, and one could say, a historical track and field venue for Mumbai. The big plus here is the connectivity; it has easy access from Western and Central Railway stations." Despite knowing about the issues in such a vital institution, what is MU doing about this hazard?

Uttam Kendre, university sports pavilion director, who looks after the daily affairs of the stadium, agreed that the stands are in an abysmal condition. He said, "The responsibility [for the stands] lies with MU's engineering department. They have to repair these stands. The gaps are dangerous, and I agree, a child can easily slip in and fall through. I have told the engineering department to tackle this problem."

When mid-day reached out to MU's engineering department, an official declined to comment on the issue, saying they were not allowed to do so. Upon being shown the pictures of the cavities in the spectator stands, MU's Vice-Chancellor, Dr. Suhas Pednekar said, "I will certainly look into the matter and do the needful."

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First Published: 08 December, 2018 08:50 IST

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