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MEETING OF MASCOTS

The Afro-Asian Games mascot, Sheroo and National Youth Games mascot, Chandu greeting each other.

The Afro-Asian Games mascot, Sheroo and National Youth Games mascot, Chandu greeting each other.  

The city enjoyed loads of sporting action last week. But the problem with Bangalore is that it craves for more and more

THE WEEK gone by was an exceptional one for the country's much happening, sports-conscious city.

Sheroo, the lion, roared his presence, and was on friendlier terms with Chandu, the deer. This rare meeting of mascots meant a lot to Bangalore's grand image as the sports capital of India. The Indian Olympic Association President Suresh Kalmadi's idea it was to unveil the Afro-Asian Games mascot, Sheroo, to the city's collective consciousness. He ensured glitz and glamour to go with it.

With a passing jibe at cricket, and its all-encompassing influence over the country's sport psyche, Kalmadi is forcefully campaigning for the spread of Olympic sports, ideals, and values. He sees Bangalore as the city of sporting pride. With good reasons. In his eyes, Bangalore is a profitable stop.

Seizing the big occasion, Karnataka let out Chandu, the mascot for the forthcoming National Youth Games to be held in Bangalore during the first week of January next. The sports-loving, tennis racket-wielding Chief Minister, S.M. Krishna, is at the forefront of that grand Youth Games effort. He and a good number of his Cabinet colleagues have been drawn into this mega event. Almost every cog in the Government wheel is likely to play a part. The 1997 National Games the State hosted has arguably been the best in the series so far. The present administration is bent on making the Youth Games a bigger draw than this. Last week's meeting of mascots coincided with meeting of minds, a progressive step in the preparation for the Youth Games. While Bangalore's sporting public remained alert to these developments, a lot more was happening around the Nike-Bhupathi tennis village. It was as if the Golden Era of tennis was reinvented. Today's youngsters lived the lives of the legends. It was heartening to hear such names as Ramanathan Krishnan, Jaideep Mukherjea, Vijay Amrithraj, Ramesh Krishnan filling the air at the Village. A novel team event where each team had the name of a past master a-fixed was set on stage. More than the competition, the team names evoked fond memories of some of the country's greatest players.

In a way, it was also a quiet awakening for Nandita Krishnan. She represents the youngest line of the famed Krishnan clan. Her victory in the Nutrine Junior Masters is a logical extension of the Krishnans' influence on the game and the huge impact its successive generations have made on it. Ramesh Krishnan was indeed a proud father.

While English football is making waves for all the wrong reasons, Indian football is trying desperately hard to get a firmer footing in the region at least. The team chose a quiet corner of the Bangalore Football Stadium last week to prepare itself for the Afro-Asian Games. The presence of some of the best in the Indian football business, headed by the irrepressible Baichug Bhutia, here in the city has also done a world of good to Bangalore's image as a much sought after place. But Bangalore's own football is in some disarray if the latest reports about Indian Telephone Industries Sports Club is to be believed. Apparently the Sports Club has been driven to such a financial despair that it is on the verge of parting ways with one of its proudest possessions, the football team. True, ITI has had a miserable run in the National League and it has lost considerable ground, locally, as well. But to do away with a tradition could be as painful to the Sports Club as it is to the rest of the Football community here. But sadly though, the financial health of ITI itself is such a critical factor here.

Bangalore may not overtly show its prejudices — from one sport to the other, but its pride continues to be cricket. Metaphorically, cricket has always been in the city's flow so to speak. Last week, that passion was best illustrated when one of the end points for the proposed Metro Rail was identified as none other than KSCA, the Karnataka State Cricket Association!

Sheroo does a jig with young friends.

Sheroo does a jig with young friends.  

So, anything cricket moves the population here. More so, the younger lot. Crowds of cricket-crazy youngsters are nothing new to the city. They are an integral part of any major build up for big time cricket. But this crowd at the KSCA ground adjoining the main stadium the other day was different. It was a congregation of would-be fast bowlers taking part in a unique speedster contest. It not only takes the art of fast bowling to a new horizon, it makes the search for talent a lot more methodical.

But hold your breath. Timex has launched a mechanised speedster. It is a bowling machine and it can hurl the red cherry at a speed Brett Lee can. Bangalore had a taste of it last week. Indeed the city had loads of sporting fun in the last few days. But the problem is it craves for more and more!

H.S. MANJUNATH

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