METRO PLUS

Turning synthetic

ON A WINNING TRACK The Nehru Stadium

ON A WINNING TRACK The Nehru Stadium   | Photo Credit: PHOTO: S. SIVA SARAVANAN



For six months, one will not be hearing adrenalin-charged cries of sportspersons here. After that, Nehru Stadium will bounce back with a brand new track, writes Rayan Rozario

For the first time since its inception in 1974, the Nehru Stadium in the city will down its iron shutters to athletes, walkers and sports lovers. The next six months will witness a flurry of activity inside for the installation of a synthetic track at a cost of Rs. 2.5 crore.The Member Secretary of the Sports Development Authority of Tamil Nadu (SDAT) in Chennai, Apoorva, says: "The sub-base work will be done initially followed by the laying of the synthetic surface."The surface work is expected to be completed in five months. "Once that is through, laying the synthetic becomes easy. It will not take more than two weeks," she says."We have invited a global tender for purchasing the synthetic material," she adds."

Revenue earner

The Nehru Stadium is one among the best in Tamil Nadu and is the highest `revenue earner' to the State's exchequer, thanks to the numerous commercial shops that dot its circumference. Despite the huge revenue, authorities concerned had not done much to develop it. "People tend to look at it more as a departmental store than a sporting arena," says Ram Muralikrishnan, sports historian.

Past glory

When it comes to sporting events, the stadium has a rich history. "Athletics and football were mainly held in this magnificent single-tier stadium. Football fans from in and around the city and from Palakkad and Thrissur thronged the stadium to view some of the finest matches ever played in Indian history," says Muralikrishnan."It has played host to the Federation Cup, Santhosh Trophy, TFA Shield, junior and sub-junior nationals besides many invitation tournaments. A women's cricket match was also held here between Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. I still remember Shantha Rangaswamy's gritty play that day," he recalls.

The pioneer

The stadium, designed by Abdul Jabbar, also served as a veritable entertainment spot to the city's populace for many years before television and an amusement park appeared on the scene. "Scores of people came in to watch a wrestling match by Dara Singh, rekla races, karate, judo, taekwondo, jallikattu and what not," he says.

Hallowed past

It was at this stadium that the friendly Argies, a second string team, displayed their artistic soccer skills. Some of the finest Indian athletes had scorched the cinder during circuit meets. Indian cricketers also played their part, whacking the red cherry to all parts of the ground during an exhibition match for the physically challenged. Current Indian skipper Rahul Dravid entered the Indian team the day after this rollicking match. A. Claudius, the father of hockey in Coimbatore, fondly recalls the hockey match between Rest of India and the World Cup winning Indian team captained by Ajit Pal Singh.

Fond memories

"It was absolutely great and people enjoyed watching it. Besides South Zone hockey, even a few foreign teams have played matches here." When the stadium first took shape, sporting stalwarts were surprised by its seating capacity - 35,000, he points out. "They wondered whether it was necessary and if people would come. Believe me, there were times when the stadium overflowed and the organisers were forced to close the gates. It's a bygone era," he says. "The stadium also saw a full house when the national women's sports festival was held in 1985 and inaugurated by then State Chief Minister M.G. Ramachandran," says Muralikrishnan.

Track record

The stadium originally had a clay mix-red soil track. Only six years ago did it change to cinder (track laid with waste from coal engines)."The cinder track is outdated as it is difficult to maintain due to irregular supplies of cinder," he says. That probably prompted the State Government to provide a synthetic track for Coimbatore, which is home to the second largest number of national athletes in the State. Muralikrishnan says laying a synthetic surface alone will not suffice.

Requirements

"What is important is a warm-up area, dormitories, toilets and office space for the respective sports bodies for administrative purposes."A permanent stage will also be a good idea, he says. Stadium authorities are seriously considering these suggestions. If they fructify, the future looks really bright for the stadium.





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