‘’Will it really happen this time?’’ was the initial response of a renowned coach when asked to comment on the proposed Elite Athletics Training Centre (EATC) which has been the subject of discussion for the past three years.
The response of the coach, who still earns a five-digit salary, did not come as a surprise as the project was proposed in 2010 by late Olympian Suresh Babu in his interim report to the government and the main objective behind the scheme was to equip the athletes to win at least a medal in athletics in the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics.
Forget the Rio de Janeiro part, would the centre be ready by the 2020 Olympics is the big question.
Sports Council president Padmini Thomas was all optimistic about starting the centre soon. But she too was unwilling to give a timetable for starting the centre. ‘’We will inform you about the centre after the Panchayat Yuva Krida Aur Khel Abhiyan (PYKKA) nationals. Anyway the centre would be functional from the next academic year. As of now, nothing could be said,’’ Padmini said.
The proposal had envisaged selecting athletes in the 18-21 age group to the scheme. Sports Council officials said that the government had earmarked a fund of Rs 1 crore for the project.
It was announced that 20 athletes would be drawn to the scheme. But the criteria for selection is ambiguous.
According to the proposal, foreign coaches would be roped in to train the athletes but so far no indications in this regard are available.
Meanwhile, sources confirmed that Lakshmi Bai National College of Physical Education (LNCPE), Kariavattom, will host the centre. The athletes would be able to use the infrastructure available at SAI and the expenses would be paid by the Sports Council. But the SAI-LNCPE office appeared clueless about such a move.
‘’Earlier there was a talk during Suresh Babu’s time about such a centre. But I haven’t received any intimation regarding the scheme in the recent past. If we are approached, SAI will extend all support to the scheme,’’ said Dr G Kishore, head of the institution.
The Sports Council officials are also of the opinion that the centre should be transferred to the National Games venues after the games conclude.