The long-running battle over access to the field area at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium erupted again, with track and field athletes complaining that they were being stopped from using it for throws and warm-ups.
The Department of Youth Empowerment & Sports (DYES), Government of Karnataka, is relaying the turf and has also denied permission to the Karnataka Athletics Association (KAA) to conduct ‘Javelin Throw Championship’ in the main field area (within the 400m track) this Sunday.
“They have asked us to use the 200m track area. But we will conduct it in the main area, come what may,” said A. Rajavelu, Hon. Secretary, KAA, on Thursday.
There is fear that the turf is being spruced up in anticipation of the return of Indian Super League football — after two editions in a bio-bubble — where Bengaluru FC plays its home games at the Stadium.
The use of Kanteerava Stadium for football has long been a bone of contention. In February, Karnataka sports minister K.C. Narayana Gowda had publicly announced that the Stadium would no longer be used for football.
“This stadium is for athletics, and we should be given preference,” said Rajavelu. “There is the State Championship coming up at the end of the month, and we have to select teams for Open Nationals and National Games. It will be unacceptable if our practice is affected,” he added.
N.R. Ramesh, an athletics coach, believes that such restrictions at a time when India was doing well internationally in the discipline is disheartening. “The 200m track area is for warm-ups, and we can’t do much there,” he said. “They are not even allowing children to jog on the pitch, and as a result the track area is always crowded, and nobody is able to practise properly.”
“We are not against football,” Ramesh added. “But there should be no hindrance while we practise. We athletes need the area only in the mornings and evenings. Rest of the time, anybody can use it.”
However, M.S. Ramesh, Joint-Director, DYES, denied that the work at the Stadium was football specific and insisted that it was for “general up-keep.” But he did not close the door on the conduct of football matches — contrary to the sports minister’s public stance — saying that the Stadium can be let out “according to official procedure”.