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Welcome to silence in Guangzhou

READY FOR THE SPECTACLE: Volunteers pose for a photo on the Haixinsha Island where the opening ceremony of the Asian Games will be held in Guangzhou.   | Photo Credit: Li Gang

The city of Guangzhou has been preparing for the Asian Games quite efficiently, putting manpower and resources to appropriate use, looking for perfection at every turn and moving forward on the strength of clear vision.

However, as you land in the beautiful city and drive through the tunnel in the mountain on the expressway, with the bus driver effortlessly touching 110 kilometres per hour, one thing that you notice is the silence all around.

Guangzhou is quiet. The roads are empty.

Maybe, it has been so, because it is early morning. But as you criss-cross the place through the day, easily covering a couple of hundreds of kilometres, attempting to figure out the venues and the facilities, there is no difference in the external life. There is pronounced silence.

There is hardly any trace of life, though the city has been breathing life with its greenery, long stretches of colourful flower beds, nicely laid out apartment buildings all around, and the Pearl River flowing with a majestic grace.

You get to see people only when you reach the venues readying for the Games, and most of them are the energetic young volunteers. The venues themselves are quite breathtaking and absolutely world class.

Aoti Complex

The Aoti Complex, about an hour's drive from the athletes' village, is a classic example. It houses the main athletics stadium, the aquatics centre, the shooting range with an aesthetics old world look, the ultra modern tennis stadium, the sparkling hockey stadiums sporting an entirely new synthetic surface generated by the Chinese themselves, the archery ground, and the baseball field.

With events scheduled in 42 disciplines, there are many such arenas spread around. The transport system impressed with its punctuality, with the drivers sticking to the minute and the security absolutely hassle-free but fool-proof.

The Indian shooters Gagan Narang, Sanjeev Rajput, Samaresh Jung, Pemba Tamang, C. K. Chaudhary, Lajja Gauswami and Chetanpreet Nilon went through the training with diligence, even as Omkar Singh was busy operating the computer in monitoring a training session in standard pistol.

Gagan Narang and Saina Nehwal were scheduled to be part of the prestigious torch relay in the day, but both skipped it, leaving Samaresh Jung to do the honour. In the bargain, Samaresh got a nice Guangzhou T-shirt to sport, and a beautiful torch to preserve as a souvenir.

Saina entirely focused on her preparation, observed that she had been training hard so as to match the tough Chinese with physical strength.

“It will be a tough journey, and I will try my best,” she assured.

In fact, there has been a lot of concern about Gagan Narang carrying the national flag during the opening ceremony, on the eve of competition in air rifle. National coach Prof. Sunny Thomas, sporting a trouser as he was yet to get his luggage after three days of arrival, made it clear that every effort would be made to ensure Narang spent just about enough time at the opening ceremony.

Narang to carry flag

“It is a great honour no doubt, but it possibly cannot be at the cost of a medal,” observed Prof. Thomas, who was equally categorical that Narang would carry the flag.

The tennis players, Vishnuvardhan, Rushmi Chakravarthi, Poojashree Venkatesh, Shivika Burman practised in earnest, accompanied by the coaches Enrico Piperno and Nandan Bal. They await the rest of the Indian tennis contingent, expected to arrive from the US, while Sania Mirza will be joining from Hyderabad where she is recovering from a throat infection.

The hockey team has been practising in right earnest from November 5. Even though the giant scoreboards runs a fictitious match, in which Malaysia consistently leads India before the latter turns the table in the climax, the Indian team was practising all by itself even as Pakistan was training at the adjacent ground.

Manager Anupam Gulati said that attempts were already on to tie up teams like Malaysia for practice matches on the surface that was hard and bouncy. Not many teams have landed as yet.

Coach Jose Brasa, focused on the training rather than the business of expressing opinion, stressed the need to change the penalty-corner strategy, particularly in defence as rival teams would have observed and analysed the drills during the recent Commonwealth Games.

If the city is getting ready with a touch of meticulous perfection, the athletes are gearing up doubly hard to match the momentum. It could all combine for a fortnight of spectacular sports show.

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Printable version | May 10, 2021 1:47:42 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/sport/other-sports/Welcome-to-silence-in-Guangzhou/article15718448.ece

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