The 36th National Games, scheduled to be held in Goa from March 30 to April 14, was postponed to September-October, officials from the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) confirmed on Tuesday. However, a suitable window has to be found to conduct the event. The games, which were to be held in 2016, have been postponed time and again and the latest setback has not gone down well with IOA officials.
Earlier this month, the Goa government had written to the IOA and the sports ministry and cited a "peculiar situation" with the state gearing up for two by-polls between February and March, followed by the general elections. Organising volunteers would also have been a challenge with school examinations scheduled to be held in March.
On Tuesday, Mukesh Kumar, chairman of the Games Technical Conduct Committee, confirmed that following a meeting with Goa chief minister Manohar Parrikar, the games had been posted and new dates have to be finalised.
Kumar said that all issues were discussed. "We have to again look at the sports calendar as it affects the athletes. But the reasons cited are genuine. The government said there are two sets of elections, plus they also cited security concerns when the elections are on as security officers have to be deployed elsewhere. Further, the second set of dates we came up also was an issue because of school exams. The government has suggested that any other date is now possible only after the monsoons and we are now looking to see if a period between September and October was feasible," Kumar said.
IOA secretary general Rajeev Mehta said that it will consider shifting the Games out of the coastal state if it does not show commitment to host them. Mehta also said that the IOA will impose a penalty of Rs 10 crore on Goa if it does not hold the Games as scheduled. "We are not happy. It seems they (Goa) lack in commitment. We have already started discussions with the Chhattisgarh government on whether they can host the Games this year. We will call a meeting of the IOA executive committee in the coming days to decide on this National Games issue," Mehta said on Tuesday.
Why top athletes could stay away from Games if it is held in Sept-Oct
The Goa National Games, which were originally scheduled to be held in November 2016, have been postponed yet again. After numerous delays due to various reasons-ranging from state elections to overall unpreparedness-the Games organisers have expressed their inability to conduct the event in March and April owing to the Lok Sabha polls. The Games, held under the banner of Indian Olympic Association, were awarded to Goa in 2011. It must be recalled that the previous multi-discipline event held in Goa-the Lusofonia Games, an event for Portuguese-speaking regions-was also mired in several delays and controversies. Whether the revised dates will force a change in programme is not yet known. It also remains to be seen if the country's top athletes will compete in the Games, since September and October will be crucial months for most as several World Championship and 2020 Olympics qualifying events will be held around the same time
"We will impose a penalty of Rs 10 crore on Goa. There is no escaping from that this time. They have been given enough time to host the Games. The repeated delays have been a loss for the athletes of the country," he added.
After Goa hosts the 36th edition, which was earlier to be held in November last year, the IOA has already decided to allot the next editions to Chhattisgarh (2019), Uttarakhand (2020) and Meghalaya (2022).
The Goa government has proposed a new window of October-November but Mehta said the state will have to show commitment to host the Games.
"They have proposed postponement to October-November but what would be the guarantee that they (Goa) will host the Games? We are not simply going to agree with whatever they say. They have to show commitment to host the Games," he said. "They cannot keep saying that they will host the Games and later give some reasons to postpone them. We came to know that the sports ministry has given Rs 100 crore for the hosting of the Games but we don't know whether the sum has been used," Mehta said. - With PTI Inputs