T. Saravanan

The Government has spent more than Rs.3 crore to put in place a sophisticated synthetic track

MADURAI: For sports aficionados in the city, it has been the proverbial slip between the cup and the lip. Twice in as many years the national circuit athletic meet, which is the qualifying championship for the Asian track and field events, was scheduled to be conducted here and twice it got cancelled. The only reason cited by authorities was lack of proper infrastructure. Such reasons will not hold water any more. For, the State has spent more than Rs.3 crore to put in place a sophisticated synthetic track at the Race Course Stadium.

Two synthetic hard courts

Along with the track, the stadium will now have two synthetic hard courts each for tennis and basketball at a cost of Rs.36 lakh. Already, it bustles with activity in several sports disciplines, including swimming, badminton, cricket, football and hockey.

With facilities that match international standards, what will be the next agenda for the sports administrators and athletes? How do they view the provision of such infrastructure? Can this be the first step towards etching Madurai’s name in the list of world class stadia?

K. Jeyamani, Senior Regional Manager, Sports Development Authority of Tamil Nadu, (SDAT), Madurai unit, is more concerned about public cooperation in maintaining the infrastructure.

Dream project

“Such an infrastructure has been a dream project for many sportspersons. Those at the helm of affairs have made it clear that the track should be used only for holding events to the standards of divisional level and for use of sportspersons selected to attend state, national and international meets. But not many from the public understand the significance of it and argue with the authorities to let them use the track for walking,” he said.

Identity cards

The authorities are planning to outsource security personnel to guard the place. For regular users of the stadium, the Madurai unit of the SDAT has planned to distribute identity cards to restrict the entry of outsiders.

Traditionally, southern districts are known for producing world class sprinters. Right from Karuthiah Natarajan, who created a national record in the Asian Track and Field meet in Manila, Philippines in 1973, clocking 10.3 seconds in 100 metres event, to R. Pandeeswari, who caught the attention of world sports with her impressive performance in the Asian championships two decades after, the list of performers from Madurai at international sprint events is long. Quite a few of them are Olympian C. Thirugnanadurai and K. Solaimathi. Point to note is that all these talents emerged from a mud track.

V.S. Ramasubramanian, district athletic coach, is buoyant. “Many athletes from the city have migrated to Chennai in pursuit of better infrastructure facilities. It may not happen anymore. With the presence of a synthetic track, Madurai can now hold international events. If a centre of excellence like the one in Chennai is sanctioned for Madurai, definitely, more athletes from the city will emerge,” he said

X. Wilson, a promising long jumper from the city, echoed: “Clearly such facility boosts the morale of sportspersons. It will have a say on our performance at national and international events. This will also prevent exodus of athletes from the city to other places.”

The authorities have sought facilities like drinking water, dormitories, toilets, dressing rooms, lighting, a guest house, an exclusive medical unit, including a physiotherapy centre, a raised fence around the track and compound wall around the stadium up to 10 feet.

R. Radhakrishnan, District Sports Officer, attributed the improvement in sports infrastructure in Madurai to the efforts of Atulya Misra, Member Secretary, SDAT.

With rapid sports developments including provision of a flood light facility to the stadium and a hockey development centre sanctioned for the city, Madurai is sure to go places.

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