As many as 81 swimmers, including girls and boys across U-14, U-17 and U-19 categories left Hyderabad to Delhi on 15 November to represent Telangana State in the National School Games being scheduled from 17 to 22 November. However, after the group reached Delhi, expectations turned sour as players’ dreadful experiences began unfolding with even trying to find food and accommodation, as facilitated by the organisers — the School Games Federation of India (SGFI).
Swimmers trying to stay afloat
Upon speaking to the players, we understood that no proper arrangements were made by SGFI, which naturally caused much travail to the players, some of them even below 14 years of age. “We reached Delhi by train on November 16 morning and went to the stadium by 10 am to complete our formalities. But we were left to fend for ourselves in the freezing cold till night without food, accommodation, or even ID cards. Then at 10.30 pm, we were given accommodation at a hotel in Mahipalpur, which is 18 km from the stadium. By the time we had settled down, it was 1 am,” grieves a player on the condition of anonymity, adding, “The next day, on November 17, one of our swimmers was so exhausted, he couldn’t wake up on time and ended up missing his swimming event.”
To make things even worse, when the SGFI organisers realised the Mahipalpur hotel was far away from the stadium, they demanded that the players vacate the hotel at midnight on November 17.
A series of unfortunate events
Clearly disgruntled with the state of organising, one of the parents who accompanied her kid lashed out that at Rashtrapal, one of the Telangana State coordinators for U-17 girls. “Nothing was in place right from the beginning. It was heart breaking to see our kids stranded on the roads at night. I wish an experienced coordinator could have been in place,” she laments.
Rashtrapal, however, defended himself, saying that he had taken up with the SGFI its order for the team to vacate the hotel at midnight. “I asked them how it was possible for us to vacate the hotel given our kids had events early in the morning. Where could we put our luggage? So I requested the authorities to give us time until early morning on November 18 to vacate. We’d keep our entire luggage in one room in the hotel and directly went to the games,” he adds. The coordinator further reveals that the chaos did not end there. After the day’s events, the girls were given accommodation in three different hotels. “I had to request Asha Aggarwal, the deputy director of Education & Sports, National School Games, to accommodate all the girls in one hotel and boys in another hotel, so that it’s was easier for us to coordinate. She has finally obliged, but on November 18 evening, the boys were asked to vacate their rooms once again and move to another hotel,” he adds as he expresses the tough time he had in coordinating with the SGFI organisers.
Even as Rashtrapal laments about how none of the authorities responded, he calls it unfortunate that parents and kids are all blaming him. “Players from all the states are suffering from such accommodation problem,” he adds.
SGFI’s colossal failure
Back home, Dr K. Narasaiah, deputy director, Sports Authority of Telangana State (SATS), blames SGFI for their failure in organising the event. “SGFI’s inability to organise things costed us dearly,” he comments, adding that he had to speak to Asha, requesting her to help the state’s players with any assistance they needed.