Revamping Sports

The sporting infrastructure created by the National Games is like a springboard for the launch of an Olympic movement in the writes Md. Sabir Nishat

Guwahati stole the heart of every sports aficionado in the country by hosting the best, biggest and most colourful National Games ever to be staged. The curtains for the 33rd National Games went up spectacularly at the Indira Gandhi Athletics Stadium at Sarusajai on February 9, 2007, with over 12,000 participants making it one of the grandest sports extrtavaganza in India.

And with the successful staging of the National Games, Assam got a giant leap in the sports firmament. The Games provided the much-needed impetus to what the sports fraternity of the State was looking forward to since long – sports infrastructure of international standards.

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In fact, over the past three decades, Nehru Stadium in Guwahati has been the only venue hosting both sporting and non-sporting activities.

But now things have changed drastically because of the National Games in Guwahati. Altogether 18 new world-class infrastructures have come up at a whopping Rs 360 crore – the biggest investments for construction of sports infrastructure in the region.

Today, we have one of the best sports infrastructures available in Guwahati, thanks to the steely determination of Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi, who in the capacity of president, Assam Olympic Association lobbied hard for the Games during the 32nd National Games in Hyderabad and tasted success. Assam today can boast of having world class infrastructure that can host even international sporting events like the Asian Games and the SAF Games.

“I never thought that in my lifetime I will be able to see such beautiful infrastructure for sports in Guwahati,” said Arjuna awardee athlete Bhogeswar Baruah.

Assam Olympic Association president and Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi under whose able leadership Assam could successfully stake its claim for hosting the Games outbidding strong contenders like Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand and Goa during the 32nd National Games in Hyderabad feels sports organizers and the people of the State actually deserve the credit. “All these facilities have come up because sports lovers and the people of my State rallied behind us. So it is they who deserve all praise.”

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The 33rd edition of the Games heralded the dawn of a new sports chapter in Assam, with the organizers coming up with some of the best infrastructure matching Olympic standards. Special mention may be made of the Rs 35 crore 30,000 capacity Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium, holding the opening and closing ceremonies and events like athletics, boxing and lawn ball, the Rs 18 crore 1,500 capacity Dr. Zakir Hussain Aquatics Complex organizing events like swimming, diving and water polo, the Rs 26 crore 2,000 capacity Karmabir Nabin Chandra Bordoloi AC Indoor Stadium, putting up events like basketball and volleyball, all at Sarusajai, the Rs 10 crore 2,000 capacity Maulana Md. Tayebullah Hockey Stadium at Bhetapara, the Rs 12 crore 1,000 capacity Deshabhakta Tarun Ram Phookan Indoor Stadium hosting events like wrestling and table tennis at RGB Sports Complex, Ulubari, the Rs 5 crore 500 capacity Rupnath Brahma Velodrome & Pavilion hosting cycling, the Rs 16 crore 1,000 capacity Indoor Stadium hosting handball and fencing, all at Sonapur near Guwahati, and the Rs 31.5 crore 3,000 capacity Rajiv Gandhi Indoor Stadium hosting gymnastics and badminton at Amingaon situated on the north bank of the city.

Existing sports facilities like the Nehru Stadium at Ulubari, the NF Railway Indoor Stadium at Maligaon, the football ground at the Guwahati University Stadium, the Veterinary College Ground and the Ganesh Mandir Indoor Stadium at Khanapara, too, in the city were spruced up for the mega event.

These entire newly built infrastructure together with the existing ones witnessed the hosting of 32 disciplines, including four maiden events vis-a-vis Rugby, Lawn Ball, Wushu and Karate-do – the highest ever in the annals of National Games.

Located close to the main National Games athletic stadium is the sprawling Games Village at Borsajai on the outskirts of the city on the East-West Corridor. Accommodation was arranged for 8,000 players and officials here. The village built at an estimated cost of Rs 113 crore comprises 252 two-bedroom and 448 three-bedroom apartments in 25 towers, equipped with all modern amenities, including uninterrupted power and direct water supply from the Brahmaputra.

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Sports organizers are of one opinion that the National Games brought about a sea change in sports in Assam and the North East as a whole and would provide upcoming sportspersons the state-of-the-art infrastructure to unearth their latent talents. “Not only Assam, sporting talents in the whole of the North East have been inspired. The Games is the launching pad for ushering in some sort of a sports movement in the entire North East part of the country,” said Baruah adding, “Assam was never lagging behind in sports talents. What it was lacking was proper infrastructure and state-of-the-art equipment.”

“With 18 beautiful stadiums and world-class facilities, there is no doubt that the city can emerge as an important hub for any other national and international sporting events in the days ahead,” said Baruah.

The then Secretary General of the 33rd National Games and now Principal Secretary, Sports & Youth Welfare, VS Bhaskar, too, echoes the same sentiment, “l am happy to say that we have one of the best infrastructures in place in the country today. The facilities, equipment, and the stadia are of very high standard and everybody has acknowledged this aspect, including the then president of the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) Suresh Kalmadi.”

Be that as it may, the hosting of the 33rd edition of the National Games in Guwahati has not only given a big boost to games and sports in Assam but also to the entire Northeast and could be the springboard for the start of an Olympic movement in the region.

Md Sabir Nishat

(Born in Guwahati, Md Sabir Nishat has been contributing articles/features to magazines and newspapers both within and outside the State as a freelancer. He writes on varied subjects with tourism being the focal point. Presently he is working as the Liaison Officer to the Chief Minister, Assam. Earlier, he had worked with The News Star, The North East Sun and The Teenager. Travelling, listening to music and watching old classic and horror movies are his favourite pastime. He can be contacted at sabirnishat111@yahoo.co.in)