Athletes asked to empty stadium so IAS officer can walk dog

The Delhi government-run Thyagraj Stadium has to follow government timings, according to the stadium administrator

FPJ Web DeskUpdated: Thursday, May 26, 2022, 09:37 AM IST
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Every evening around 7.30 pm Delhi's Principal Secretary (Revenue) Sanjeev Khirwar walks his dog at the Delhi government-run Thyagraj Stadium, meaning athletes and coaches have to wrap up training by 7 pm.

“We used to train till 8-8.30 pm under lights earlier. But now, we are asked to leave the ground by 7 pm so that the officer can walk his dog on the ground. Our training and practice routine has been disrupted,” said a coach to The Indian Express.

Built in 2010 for the Commonwealth Games, the complex attracts state and national level athletes.

While regular users of the facility have been complaining, Khirwar, a 1994-batch IAS office, said the allegation was "absolutely incorrect." He said that while he "sometimes" walked his dog there, it didn't disrupt the athletes' practice.

Upon inspection, Express found that on three evenings over the past week, stadium guards started blowing whistles near the track around 6.30 pm, ensuring it was cleared by 7 pm.

Ajit Chaudhary, stadium administrator, said that the stadium's official evening timings were 4-6 pm but because of the heat, athletes were allowed to train till 7 pm. He didn't share official order detailing the timing.

“We have to close by 7 pm. You can find the government office timings anywhere. This (stadium) is also a government office under the Delhi government. I am not aware of any such thing (an official using the facilities to walk his dog). I leave the stadium by 7 pm and I am not aware,” Chaudhary said.

On Tuesday, Express saw Khirwar reach the stadium with his dog post 7.30 pm.

Khirwar explained: “I would never ask an athlete to leave the stadium that belongs to them. Even if I visit, I go after the stadium is supposed to close…We don’t leave him (the pet) on the track…when no one is around we leave him but never at the cost of any athlete. If it’s something objectionable, I will stop it.”

The athletes, parents, and coaches spoke to Express on the condition of anonymity.

An athlete's parent added about the situation: “My child’s practice is getting disrupted. Even if they say they use the facilities late at night, can you justify using a state-owned stadium to walk your dog? This is gross misuse of power."

An athlete added: “Earlier, we continued training till 8.30 pm and sometimes even 9 pm but now we have no option. Earlier, I took water breaks once every half-hour. Now I need a drink every five minutes."

Several of these athletes have shifted training Sports Authority of India's Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium which is 3 kms away, which allows training post 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,” explained a coach at the JLN stadium.

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