Two of Delhi’s prominent academic institutions are getting a facelift ahead of the Commonwealth Games (CWG) in October, in the hope that the upgraded facilities will provide the necessary infrastructure for sports at the university level.
Delhi University (DU), which will host rugby, netball and training for boxing, is being spruced up at an expense of Rs50 crore, while Rs45 crore is being spent on Jamia Millia Islamia, which will be the training centre for rugby and table tennis. The entire project is being funded by the Delhi government.
A lasting legacy?
While the attention to infrastructure at the universities augurs well for the development of sports in these campuses, the precedent is not encouraging. The handball and archery venues that were set up in DU during the 1982 Asian Games were demolished after the event, leading to questions on whether the current endeavour too will be a wasteful expense.
Positive effect: Table tennis and rugby facilities are being upgraded at Jamia (top) and Delhi University for the Commonwealth Games. Sanjay Arora/Mint
Sudershan Pathak, deputy director of sports and chief venue administrator of DU, hopes to organize national and international tournaments as well as inter-college and inter-varsity tournaments (under the aegis of the Association of Indian Universities) after the games. He adds that the use of the venues will only be decided by the CWG Organising Committee and DU.
One of Delhi’s more prominent footballers, Rishi Kapoor, who played for Mohun Bagan in 2000-04, is guardedly optimistic. Kapoor represented DU in 1994 at the inter-varsity games in Uttarakhand. “When I was a student with Kirori Mal College, we didn’t have good infrastructure. Now that the north campus in DU and Jamia are getting upgraded, I hope these grounds can be put to good use. These facilities should be available to upcoming athletes, and for free. If they lock these grounds, chances are these venues will rot. It will be a complete waste,” he says.
Syed Shahid Hakim, who heads the sports department at Jamia, says: “We are considering to allow common people to use the facilities in our campus. But the priority will be given to Jamia students. We have a tennis court, (and facilities for) wrestling, basketball, badminton, judo, karate. We are trying to convert our existing hockey ground into astroturf.”
At the DU stadium (which hosted the Asian Rugby Sevens Invitational tournament earlier this month) in the north campus, the main arena has been built. The university has received grants for the development of this rugby stadium and a multipurpose sports hall. The rugby ground, however, will be used for cricket after the CWG.
A synthetic track is being provided at the university’s polo ground. Though unsure of the polo ground’s future use, Pathak believes the new venue will showcase DU’s strength in sports. “CWG will be a platform for us to showcase our talent and infrastructure,” she says. The funds have also been used to help seven colleges—Daulat Ram College, Hindu College, Kirori Mal College, Ramjas College, Khalsa College, Shri Ram College of Commerce and St Stephen’s College—which will serve as training venues for rugby during the CWG.
If DU hasn’t yet decided on its future programme on sports, Jamia has a blueprint in place. “We already have appointed three Sports Authority of India (SAI) coaches who will work with us. We will involve more coaches soon so that we can have an overall sports development after the CWG,” says Hakim, who was a director with SAI (eastern centre), and part of the Indian Olympic football team in Rome in 1960.
Jamia Millia Islamia has decided to develop its football from the grass-roots level. “We have decided to pick on Jamia School and start our football programme from there. We hope to scout talented players from the school and thereby strengthen our university team once these students graduate to college,” says Hakim.
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