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Please be sporting about SAF gaffes

- Multi-crore display flaunts 33-month-old time, plastic flags flutter

The state capital may have advanced from hosting the 34th National Games in February 2011 to 2nd South Asian Federation Junior Athletics Championships now, but the sports venue is frozen in time.

The multi-crore giant display board at Birsa Munda Athletics Stadium in Hotwar stopped one fine day during the National Games at 11.45am. It failed to move a minute in the past two years and nine months.

From 2011 onwards, the facility has seen many national and zonal meets, but the time warp has stayed.

In the ongoing SAF games, the state’s first global athletics meet, the timer display proudly reads 11.45am at any time of the day or night.

Jharkhand Athletics Association president Madhukant Pathak explained why the timer display showed 11.45am and would in all likelihood continue to do so in the near future.

“The global agency Omega, hired to install it during the 34th National Games, wrapped up all its consoles and went. We don’t have any technician to rectify it,” Pathak said.

According to the contract during the National Games, Omega was to train 20 persons to handle the display board and timer.

“They didn’t do so. So we stopped payment of Rs 5 crore. They are the only agency in the world to handle such machinery at stadiums. Others don’t have expertise,” Pathak, also a treasurer of Jharkhand Olympic Association and one of the organisers of the National Games, said.

The cringe factor doesn’t end here.

Seven countries — India, Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Maldives, Bangladesh and Afghanistan — are taking part in the meet. The Bhutan squad, to arrive on Sunday night, couldn’t make it at the last moment due to logistic snags.

Plastic flags of eight countries, including absentee Bhutan, are fluttering high on Birsa stadium grounds.

This despite Union home ministry directing all states to ban national flags made of plastic, citing Flag Code of India (2002) provisions and environment concerns. The Prevention of Insults to National Honour Act (1971) also forbids plastic flags.

“Have you seen national flags made of plastic in a big event? Yesterday’s inaugural ceremony was attended by big shots from the chief minister to Union rural minister. Everyone missed this basic detail,” said a senior bureaucrat.

Officials on the ground were blasé. “Arre boss, kyun in sab ko highlight kar rahe hain. Aapko humein support karna chahiye itne bade aayojan ke liye. (Why are you highlighting such issues? You should support us for arranging this mega event),” he said.

But when The Telegraph contacted sports minister Geetashree Oraon for her comments in the evening, she was disarmingly candid. “I was honestly not aware of this. It shouldn’t have happened. We will get the plastic flags changed as soon as possible,” she said.

Do you think the state has the expertise to host global athletics events? Tell ttkhand@abpmail.com