What do the authorities and athletes feel about the facelift the Nehru Stadium is getting in connection with the upcoming Inter-State meet?
A National 800m champion for 14 years and a four-time Olympian, 48-year-old Shiny Wilson took her son along with her a few days ago to see the Nehru Stadium, which is getting a facelift for the Inter-State athletic meet to be held in Chennai from June 4 to 7.
As the work progressed under floodlights at a feverish pace, Shiny looked on reliving a thousand pleasant memories, memories that refuse to fade. She remembers setting a new meet record in the 1995 SAF Games at the Nehru Stadium here under two minutes which she says was “my dream”. “I have run here so many times, won so many medals and broken so many records,” says Shiny, flashing her charming smile. “I don’t know why. There is something special (about the track).”
For Gayathri Govindaraj, the Nehru Stadium is like a second home. She recalls taking part in a school event and returning home crying because she did not win a medal. “I was in Standard II in 1998 and participated in the 4x100m relay for my school, St. Columbans. I remember breaking down inconsolably,” says the 22-year-old, 100m hurdler, who is taking part in the Inter-State meet. “Every time I run here, I feel like I am running on my own track.”
C. K. Valson, secretary, Athletic Federation of India, is supervising the work at the Nehru Stadium. As he takes us to the Indoor (60m) and the warm-up tracks, one can see the enormous effort put in by the workers to get everything ready as early as possible. “By May-end, the track will be ready. But work on the warm-up track will go on till June-end,” he says. The Inter-State meet is scheduled as a trial event for the Asian track and field championship here (in July 2013), which was cancelled due to political reasons.
“This track will conform to International standards. Whenever the State Government wishes to host an International event in the future, it will be able to do so. This will be one of the best tracks in India,” says Valson.
One man who has seen the Nehru Stadium come alive in the 1990s is W.I. Davaram, now president of the Tamil Nadu Athletic Association. “In 1992, a football stadium was constructed. There was no track then. In 1994, a synthetic track was laid. After which an international event was conducted. In 1995, the SAF Games was held with athletics as a major event,” Davaram said. The track was re-laid in 2001. Think about it and you will realise that most of the records have been made here. It is because the Sports Development Authority of Tamil Nadu maintains the track well.”
Davaram assures the new infrastructure will be a bonus for Tamil Nadu athletes, who will doubtlessly fare well in the Inter-State meet. The question is: Can they better their medal haul this time?