Indian team ignored at special games

POOR SHOW: A disabled athlete being helped on to a wheelchair-unfriendly bus after his event at the IWAS World Games 2009 at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium in Bangalore on Friday. Photo: Sampath Kumar G.P.   | Photo Credit: Sampath Kumar G.P.

By winning the gold in athletics, power-lifting and golf, India’s performance at the ongoing Fourth International Wheelchair and Amputee Sports (IWAS) World Games 2009 is laudable. However, the Indian team is anything but happy. “This is our Olympics… the world sporting arena [that] we have been training so hard for. A win is a glorious moment but IWAS 2009 has brought us shame and despair,” said an Indian contestant.

Troubles for the disabled athletes started the moment they arrived. There were no volunteers to help them. “I understand we (as hosts) need to be hospitable to the contingents from other nations. However, that does not mean you completely ignore Team India,” said a coach who did not want to be named.

Accreditation card

With the organisers and the volunteers fussing over the international contingents, Team India had still not received an accreditation card from the organisers. “We were not allowed into the playing arena as we had no proof to show that we were participating. We had to call the coach to come over and help us out. But, he too was just as helpless as even he had no accreditation card,” said a participant. The team managed to make it to their event in the nick of time, said the coach.

Left out

The athletes also pointed out to the callous way Arjuna award winners and Paralympians such as Jagjit Singh, Naresh Sharma and Markanda Reddy were treated. They were left watching from the stands when the prestigious torch relay was carried out by a team of “national players”. “They just called out a few names and asked them to join in the torch relay,” said Vijay Maneshwar, the power-lifting coach.

Rajender Singh, who brought home gold for power-lifting along with Farman Basha here, said on Friday, that neither the victory nor the reception was new to them. “Devender Singh set a world record and won the javelin gold at the 2004 Athens Paralympics. I won the bronze for power-lifting. When Olympians such as Vijendra Singh are showered with accolades, why are we ignored?” asked Mr. Singh who is still waiting for the job that was promised two years ago by the Government.

Appalling arrangements

On Thursday, an Indian athlete toppled along with his wheelchair trying to cross the makeshift ramp near the main entrance. Instead of building a proper ramp around a four-inch high pipe, which contestants unfortunately have to cross to get to the stands, the organisers had just strewn some foam pieces around it. Prathap Kumar, part of the UAE delegation, said the poor planning shocked him. “The toilets have neither buckets nor mugs,” he said. Some toilets have an empty mineral water bottle instead of a mug.

Dr. Kumar said the organisers had not even provided a wheelchair-friendly bus. “Getting on it is inconvenient,” he said. The German and Japanese team coaches nodded in agreement.

Unfulfilled promise

A member of the organising committee, present when the Indian athlete fell off his wheelchair, conceded that the arrangements were poor and promised of putting in place a proper ramp the next day. However, the situation was the same on Friday.

Satyanarayana, secretary, Karnataka Athletic Association and in charge of the arrangements, was apologetic when he said that the ramp problem would be attended to Friday night.

He attributed the glitches to inexperience saying it was the first time that they were organising an event for differently-abled people. He did not agree to the suggestion that the organisers had not done their homework, and called the shortcomings “blunders”.

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Printable version | Jun 9, 2021 2:16:56 AM |

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