Madhya Pradesh Sports Minister Tukoji Rao Pawar on Tuesday “regretted” that P.T. Usha was not provided separate accommodation and blamed the Sports Authority of India (SAI) for the lapse and the apparent insult to the sprint queen. However, Athletics Federation of India washed its hand off the incident and termed it a “communication gap” between the Sports Authority of India and the sprint queen.
AFI Secretary-General Lalit Bhanot said the incident was “regrettable” and Usha is currently staying in a hotel. The celebrated sprinter is in Bhopal to attend the 49th National Open Athletics meet with her team.
“It was nobody’s fault. There was a communication gap which was rectified. SAI was not aware of Usha’s programme and they were neither informed by the local organisers who had arranged for her trip,” said Mr. Bhanot.
“I spoke to her personally today and she has been given a good accommodation and is staying there. She has not been ill-treated,” added Mr. Bhanot, who is also the Secretary of Commonwealth Games Organising Committee.
Usha is the coach of an athletics team participating at the Championship. She had asked for a better accommodation from the tournament organisers, which the SAI officials reportedly denied. She subsequently burst into tears in front of reporters.
Clarifying the incident, Mr.Bhanot said, “She had booked her own accommodation eight days ago and the tournament organisers thought that she will be staying on her own, that’s why nobody was at fault.”
“It was raining heavily yesterday and when the organisers came to know that she has arrived along with her team, they went to pick her up and it was just 20 minutes late. Come on, you have to wait for longer hours at the airport sometimes and she waited for just 20 minutes,” he said.
Mr. Bhanot said he will make sure that such an incident is never repeated in the future and an athlete like Usha does not have to cry again.
“If athletes are coming for any event, AFI should also be informed about their programme in advance so that proper arrangements can be made for them and things should be monitored from the headquarters also,” he said.
The Madhya Pradesh government earlier in the day ordered a probe into the shabby treatment meted out to the sprint queen at the 9th National Open Athletics Championships, though the organisers said that she was not on the official list of invitees.