Goa will be hosts to the 36th National Games which are scheduled to be held later this year in November 2018. The National Games are technically a bi-annual feature which are organised under the patronage of the Indian Olympic Association, the Country’s sports organising body. But rarely have the Games been organised every 2 years, with most of the States faltering on their promises. Mainly due to infrastructure issues. Goa was originally supposed to hold these games way back in 2011, but delays by Jharkhand and Kerala gave Goa the leverage of a few extra years.
The 35th National Games were held in Kerala in 2015, when it was announced that Goa would host the next edition in 2016. But this date was missed. The State establishment subsequently requested a further postponement to 2018. If everything goes as per plans, then Goa will be hosts to the biggest sporting extravaganza in its history from November 4 to 17, 2018. This should be a proud moment for our small State. However, because of constant delays and postponements which have been there, many questions pertaining to the Games are now being legitimately asked? Is the Establishment racing against time? Do we have sufficient funds to complete the infrastructure on track? With barely a few months remaining, is the State Establishment really prepared and geared up for all this?
Yes, if Mr. Manohar Babu Azgaonkar is to be believed. Speaking to media persons at a Press interactive session held a couple of days back, the Sports Minister put up a brave face and appeared confident that the Games will go on as announced. “I am very confident that everything will fall in place. I am optimistic as the government is working overtime and burning the midnight oil to have the plans finalised and approved”, he declared with a smile. Azgaonkar sounded optimistic when he added: “Three tenders are out and the work order will be given soon. We will complete everything in five months. Contract will be awarded to whoever is willing to take up this challenge. We can pay a little more but we must host the National Games in 2018.” Azgaonkar might sound optimistic but his confidence may not exactly be rubbing off on the others since in the past too, Goa’s politicians and administrators have given their word but have failed to keep it. Will things change now or will the same old story be repeated? While a lot of infrastructure was created during the Goa Lusofonia Games 2014 which can be utilized to host the National Games, yet there is a lot more which needs to be done. On the face of it, it looks like we are seriously behind schedule. With the Chief Minister also undergoing treatment, it remains to be seen if others in the Government have the same kind of zeal and drive to push the works through. So many sports disciplines like Cycling, Tennis, Squash, Badminton and Hockey do not have the facilities and stadiums to meet the National norms as yet. As many as six new facilities need to be constructed or five facilities need to be refurbished, and works haven’t even started yet. While Lusofonia was just about 9 disciplines, the National Games on the other hand is at a whole different level altogether, with 35+ sports disciplines to be held. Apart from infrastructure, there has to be a Games village, a Games Secretariat, a whole organizational set-up to plan the arrangements of every single athlete and official. This should be planned properly and not be an eleventh hour exercise. There should not be any wasteful expenditure which was seen during Lusofonia due to bad planning and execution. Also, being hosts and expected to put up a good show, sufficient funds will need to be allocated to train Goa’s athletes so that we win a good haul of medals and are not placed among the bottom level. Are any thoughts being applied to this?
On the positive side, files have just about started moving. The Government has tendered or is in the process of tendering many infrastructure facilities. There are Tennis courts and a Cycling velodrome which are supposed to come up at Fatorda, a Squash facility at Chicalim, a Multipurpose Indoor Stadium at Navelim (but there are some legal issues there), a Hockey facility at Peddem, a Multipurpose Indoor Stadium, Pernem; refurbishment of Multipurpose Indoor Stadium at Campal, Campal open ground development, refurbishment of Multipurpose Indoor Stadium at Ponda, and refurbishment of Multipurpose Indoor Stadium at Fatorda. If funds are exclusively earmarked, then there is no reason why these works cannot be completed within the next 7 to 9 months. By December or January, the infrastructure should be ready which means the Games can realistically be held by February or March 2019. Even if the Games are delayed by a few months, it should be fine as creation of all the infrastructure will definitely be a positive development for upliftment of sports in Goa. So many new facilities will be created which will benefit Goa’s sports persons and public at large. School and college children as well as topmost athletes will have state-of-the-art infrastructure and environment to train in. But whether the Games will happen on schedule or not, we do not know as yet. We will keep our fingers crossed and hope for the best.
Sandeep Heble Panjim – Goa (The writer is Secretary of Goa Badminton Association. Views expressed are his own. )