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Updated: August 16, 2009 15:58 IST

Emilys English certificate

Kamesh Srinivasan
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Emily Webley-Smith in action against Poojashree Venkatesh during the finals of the ITF women's tennis tournament at the DLTA Complex in New Delhi, on Saturday. Photo: V.V.Krishnan
The Hindu Emily Webley-Smith in action against Poojashree Venkatesh during the finals of the ITF women's tennis tournament at the DLTA Complex in New Delhi, on Saturday. Photo: V.V.Krishnan

It is a commendable exercise that the Delhi Lawn Tennis Association (DLTA) has been holding international tournaments for men and women almost every week, despite the hectic construction activity at the site in Africa Avenue for the forthcoming Commonwealth Games. It may be noted that every other venue has been closed for months.

However, the compromise on standards has been quite shocking, and has, in fact, sent all the wrong signals around the world.

The top-seeded Emily Webley-Smith of Britain who won a singles title from two finals apart from a doubles title over the last fortnight, has termed the temporary toilets, that double up as changing rooms as well, as the filthiest toilet you have ever seen, in her blog.

Though she kept her composure for a fortnight, focusing on tennis, Emily opted to change her dress on court before the third set during her singles semifinals on August 14, as she wrote, I couldnt face the filth of the portaloo… I think the Indian street people peering over the wall got the shock of their lives!

The 25-year-old Emily was perhaps lucky that she was not around when the two temporary toilets at the DLTA were set up during the mens tournaments recently, as there was neither water nor tissue paper at that time. The players were complaining to the referee every time then, without any positive response. The stink stayed.

Of course, Emily had a lot of good things to say about the friendly people and the comfortable accommodation, as she was staying in a nearby five-star hotel, Hyatt.

She was quite pleased with the technology in her hotel room that ensured that every time she picked up the phone to answer a call, the television automatically became mute and came alive once she put the receiver down!

Primitive conditions

On court, it was primitive conditions that greeted her. The tarpaulin sheet that was meant to be the roof to protect the players and the spectators proved grossly inadequate owing to the heavy monsoon showers.

The tarpaulin roof over the watching area by the courts caved in and a waterfall was created onto us. Ran to the official onsite hotel (which is an absolute hole), she says.

There was mud flowing all around every time it rained, lets hope this is the last time I have to go back there, Emily prayed.

When the government pays the prize money and there is sizeable television money from Doordarshan for the live coverage of each tournament, it is the biggest mystery in Indian tennis, as to why the rest of the associations, spread across the country cannot conduct such international tournaments.

Eight of the last 12 international mens and womens tennis tournaments have been conducted in Delhi, this season. There will be three more weeks of mens tennis from Monday.

Thereafter, only one more week of womens tennis will be played in Delhi. Once all the courts are about to be dug up during the final phase of construction, the tournaments will shift to Pune, Bangalore, Dehra Dun, Kolkata and Noida.

The image of Delhi and the Commonwealth Games venue would have taken a heavy toll by then. Does anyone care about such things?

Nobody seems to have learnt the lessons, even after the English team walked out of the World badminton championship on security grounds in Hyderabad.

At a time when H1N1 swine flue is causing havoc by spreading fear like fire, the organisers at least could focus on hygiene at the venues of the international tournaments in the country.

What is the point in spending thousands of crores of rupees on building world class infrastructure for the Commonwealth Games if we are going to drive sportspersons insane with filth in the run up to the mega event scheduled for October 2010.

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