New Delhi: Empty stands or sparse crowds greeted the athletes in almost all the competition venues on the first day of the Commonwealth Games events, leaving the organisers a trifle embarrassed.
Even the swimming and gymnastic competitions, which usually attract a good crowd, drew lukewarm response from the Delhiites as most of the stands remained vacant both in S P Mukherjee Aquatics Complex and Indira Gandhi indoor stadium, the venue for gymnastic events.
The hockey matches between New Zealand and Wales, and South Africa versus Trinidad and Tobago were almost played in front of empty stands at the 19,118 crowd capacity Dhyan Chand national hockey stadium.
Among all the venues, the weightlifting competitions at Jawaharlal Nehru stadium and tennis competitions at the R K Khanna tennis complex, had witnessed presence of a moderate crowd compared to other venues.
Surprisingly, even the events involving Indian athletes failed to attract the crowds.
Asked about the lukewarm crowd response towards the events, Organising Committee officials, however, tried to play down the issue, saying they were expecting sale of tickets to pick up in the coming days.
“These are very initial days. We expect the sale of tickets to pick up in the next few days,” said an official from the Organising Committee.
Admitting that strict security cover may be the reason for the poor response, they said that the crowd presence will “definitely improve in coming days.”
Sports enthusiasts also cited the “overwhelming” security cover for their lack of interest in going to the venues rather than enjoying the events on television.
“I wanted to watch the gymnastic events, but decided against going there due to heavy security checks. I don’t want to be harassed,” said Deba Bhattacharjee, a resident of Jungpura Extension.
Ranbir Rai, another sports enthusiast echoed a similar view and said that security hassles were keeping a majority of sports-lovers away from the events.
“We could see unprecedented security cover around all the venues. We understand the reasons for such a heavy security but it dampens the spirit of going to the stadiums and enjoying the excitement,” he said.
Rai, a software engineer, said that many of his colleagues have already left the city to get rid of the “harassment”.