Delhi: Stadium emptied for IAS officer's dog; government intervenes
The athletes at the Delhi government-run Thyagraj Stadium flagged concerns over training disruptions as they had to evacuate the premises early to let Delhi's Principal Secretary (Revenue) Sanjeev Khirwar go on a walk with his dog, according to The Indian Express. Following the complaints by athletes, coaches, and parents, the Delhi government has ordered an extension of stadium timings for athletes till 10:00 pm.
What were the complaints?
"We used to train till 8-8.30 pm under lights earlier. But now, we are asked to leave the ground by 7:00 pm," a coach working at the facility told The Indian Express. He blamed the Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer for the restrictions, saying that the babu enters the stadium with his dog. It has disrupted their training and practice routine, the coach added.
Athletes forced to relocate to other facilities
Several sportspersons have started relocating their training to other facilities like the Sports Authority of India's Jawaharlal Nehru stadium after 7:30 pm. "Children train here till 8.30 pm under the lights. Now, during the summer break, we run out of space in the practice area since the main stadium track is still under renovation," the report quoted a coach at the stadium.
IAS officer Khirwar denies interrupting practice sessions
Separately, Khirwar admitted to taking his dog to the stadium for a walk, however, he denied that it interfered with athletes' practicing routines. "Even if I visit, I go after the stadium is supposed to close. We don't leave the pet on the track. When no one is around we leave him but never at the cost of athletes," he told The Indian Express.
What do the stadium officials say?
However, security guards, according to The Indian Express, ensure that the arena is vacated by 7:00 pm. For that, whistles are blown throughout the stadium. Ajit Chaudhary, the stadium administrator, indicated that the official evening hour is 4-6 pm. Due to the heat, athletes were told to train until 7:00 pm, he stated. However, Chaudhary made no mention of any explicit time instructions.
Criticism from several quarters
Evidently, the IAS officer received severe criticism for the reported act. "If this is what goes on in Delhi imagine what it must be like in the districts where the DC & SSP believe they are lords and masters of all they survey," tweeted the Congress leader Manish Tewari. Senior journalist Saurabh Bose wrote on Twitter: "SPORTS HAS GONE TO THE DOGS."
New directive by Delhi government
Meanwhile, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Thursday took a note of the complaint. He has directed that all Delhi government sports facilities should stay open for sportspersons till 10 pm, as per ANI. To recall, Thyagraj Stadium is one of the multi-discipline athletic facilities built for the Commonwealth Games in 2010. It draws athletes from throughout the country.