It takes a village to raise a champion, goes the age old saying. In the case of the 37th National Games in Goa, it holds true for hosting rowing competitions in the Chapora river, about 20 km from the state capital.
Despite Goa being rich in water bodies, rowing as a sport hasn’t really taken root in this coastal state and the infrastructure for the sport was never created.
The organisers knew that it was always going to be a challenge to build a course for the sport as rowing needs still water and a straight course of two kilometres or more.
First identifying a venue where all these requirements were met took time and then when they found the right spot, building the required infrastructure became the next hurdle as there was no free land around the river bed.
"Real challenge was to make a place for boats to be kept" - Ismail Baig
And this is where the local farmers came forward to bail the government and the organises out despite the ongoing harvesting season.
“The course is quite good. The tide does affect the flow of water but it is manageable. But the real challenge was to make a place for boats to be kept, build technical officials’ area and other facilities as the river is surrounded by privately owned farms,” said Director of Competition Ismail Baig, while pointing out to the lush green land lined with coconut trees on the other side of the river bank to explain how things looked when he arrived in Goa 10 days ago.
With just 12 days left for the Rowing event to start, a lot depended on the co-operation of the farmers as the harvesting season was still on and the crops were yet to be cut.
But in the next two days, 23 farmers not just cleared their land but also handed over about 30,000 square metre of land to the authorities to build a concrete road till the river bank, level the farms and even clear about 5000 square metre of land of small shrubs and bushes.
“Every new venue has its own challenges. But here, we had to work on war footing for the last 10 days to get the land levelled, build temporary infrastructure while ensuring that there is no long-term damage to the soil as the farmer will have to start cultivation soon after,” said Baig.
To ensure that the farmers also don’t suffer damages, the government has already decided on the compensation to be paid to them though some of them have not demanded anything in return.
Goa sports minister Govind Gaude was all praise for the farmers. “The overwhelming support from the farmers shows how much these Games mean to the Goans.
“We are grateful to them for their support,” he added.