CHENNAI: If the world had not encountered the coronavirus, stadiums in the city would now be filled with enthusiasts cheering their favourite teams in a range of sporting events.
Now, with the virus taking over large populations of many countries, the stadiums have doubled as quarantine centres, hosting hundreds of COVID- 19 patients.
Following the example set by their counterparts in Australia, Brazil, Chennai’s Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium is the latest to be tasked with this duty.
As much as it’s a vital service, not everyone is pleased with the responsibility.
With an order from the Tamil Nadu government, the state’s biggest multipurpose stadium was not just turned into a mass quarantine centre with the facility to host 500-600 people, but also waiting point for migrant workers employed with the Central Railway Station.
While the move can certainly be termed necessary, it has killed all chances of athletes using the grounds for training in the near future.
All those reliant on the facility had banked on the possibility of the government allowing them on its grounds in June.
Disappointed with the decision, the Tamil Nadu Athletic Association (TNAA) is considering requesting the government to shift the centre elsewhere.
C Latha, TNAA’s secretary, is of the opinion that the government could have just roped in a few more schools and colleges, in addition to the ones already functioning as quarantine/testing centres.
“With the Olympics scheduled for next year, they could have avoided using a facility like the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium. Though some are training at makeshift arrangements like mud tracks and cement roads now, the synthetic track can make all difference. We have decided to send a letter to the government, requesting them to shift the isolation wards somewhere else,” she says.
The TNAA is also scheduled to host the senior national athletic championships between September and October this year.
“There is uncertainty over how long the stadium will be used for this purpose. Chennai is the hub for athletes. We need to prepare them for senior nationals.
Depending on their performances in the meet, athletes will be picked for the national camps as well. We are faced with the conundrum over how to proceed forward,” she explains.
With athletics being a non-contact sport, Latha reiterates that the health of the athletes would not be compromised when the training resumes.
“Athletics is not a team sport. There might be some group training but athletes are going to practise individually only. Hence, maintaining social distancing and following other new norms won’t be an issue for us, as long as we get the place for training,” Latha details.
The stadium playing host to patients has also rendered the facilities for volleyball, throwball, handball, kabaddi, judo, weightlifting, table tennis, and boxing, inaccessible for players. All of them too would like to return to the home ground sooner than later.