Suresh Kalmadi has requested Union Sports Minister M. S. Gill to allow the media access to the National Stadium so that it could interact with the Indian hockey team and report on the practice sessions.
In what has become a contentious issue for more than a fortnight, the media has not been allowed entry into the National Stadium on the plea that it could jeopardise security arrangements.
“It has been brought to my notice by Sports Journalists Federation of India that journalists are not being allowed inside the National Stadium…” Kalmadi wrote to the Sports Minister on Saturday.
“While security concerns of the venue and the players are well appreciated, I think we should allow mediapersons to enter the stadium and interact with the Indian team members,” Kalmadi, who is the Joint Chairman of the World Cup Organising Committee wrote.
He wrote that journalists could be checked and cleared from a security point of view as per laid down procedures.
Possibly Kalmadi was unaware of the furore over the bar on the media till he received a fax from the SJFI President, S. Sabanayakan on Friday, but Hockey India, Sports Authority of India (SAI) and almost anyone connected with the World Cup event had been fully familiar with the situations for days.
The Sports Minister, who was also informed by Sabanayakan about the unprecedented situation and requested to intervene, meanwhile, enquired from his officers and those from the SAI about the problem on Friday.
They explained to him that arrangements made by them for team interaction with the media had gone waste on three occasions.
The crux of the media demand, that of gaining access to a stadium that will soon be having practice sessions by all the participating teams, has not been understood by the authorities.
The Sports Authority India (SAI) reiterated that mediapersons were not being allowed to enter the stadium because of security reasons. “Security is the main concern. It is a World Cup and so many teams are coming…Security is non-negotiable,” Joint Secretary and SAI Teams Wing Executive Director Pravir Krishn said on Saturday.
Mr. Krishn said ongoing construction activities and security drills was the reason behind not allowing anyone inside the stadium.
“Several security drills are going on and every centimetre is being checked. Safety, fire and personal security drills are being done in a matter of just two-to-three weeks. So, it is not possible to allow anyone,” he said.
A police spokesman, however, said that the police had not imposed any restrictions on media's entry into the stadium during the pre-World Cup period.
A visit to the stadium on Saturday evening confirmed the well-known position that there was no police presence there, barring the odd patrol vehicle that came in. Half a dozen security personnel posted by the SAI were screening visitors at the main gate.
A guard told this correspondent that there was no particular clearance or advance permission required for the hundreds of workers engaged in the last-minute sprucing up of the complex.