The Telegraph
Saturday , May 10 , 2014
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Velodrome rises from 3yr sleep
Athletes, children can hope to spend this summer cycling

Back on track after three years and three months. From May 15 onwards, the Rs 13-crore Sidho Kanhu Velodrome in Hotwar, Ranchi, the state’s lone cycling tracks, will be thrown open to public — players and commoners alike — for the first time.

Literally left to rot after the 34th National Games in 2011 and locked up for reasons best known to sports department mandarins at a great cost to cyclists, the oval cycling tracks will make their public reappearance. Minister Geetashree Oraon, who holds the sports portfolio, gave her formal consent to this effect on Thursday.

“We sent the proposal to open the velodrome long ago but it came back to us with the minister’s nod only on Thursday. Another round of meeting is scheduled on Saturday second half, primarily to discuss and fine-tune our plans,” said a sports department official.

Sports director Dadan Choubey confirmed to The Telegraph about the development.

“Things are looking up. We are organising a summer camp for schools this time. Besides cycling, it will also cover seven other disciplines, namely athletics, football, table tennis, lawn tennis, badminton and kabaddi. A month ago, swimming coaching had begun at Veer Budhu aquatic stadium.”

“Monday onwards, most city schools will start summer vacations. Getting children into sports practice at the mega sports complex is the best way to get off to an enthusiastic start,” the sports official added.

But most importantly, budding Lakhan Hansdas and Anita Kumaris of the state will heave a sigh of relief. For too long, the locked velodrome had deprived state’s professional cyclists of good practice.

For years, The Telegraph has reported on talented cyclists practising on open roads and on old, broken-down racing cycles, risking life and limb to pursue their passion. The velodrome and cycling gear purchased before National Games rotted behind locks.

But, that will change now.

“Professional players will get the opportunity to practise here. It will also be a good place for talent spotting,” the sports official said.

Fees for camps will be announced in a few days, but “they will be affordable to suit candidates from all walks of life”.

Yet, so deep-seated is the disillusionment with the state that the department is having a tough time roping in NIS-certified cycling coaches for the newbies.

For now, a policeman, one Arshad Khan, has been roped in to impart training. Dhanbad-based ace cyclist Ram Kumar Bhatt, who has many national meets and medals to his credit, is being pursued but he doesn’t seem too eager.

Bhatt, once one of the state’s most promising cyclists, over the years saw his dreams getting punctured owing to lack of official support.

“He’s working as a security guard in Dhanbad and gets Rs 6,000 a month. We promised him Rs 10,000 as a part-time coach, to which he agreed initially but then changed his mind and said he wanted a permanent position,” the official state.

Should other Hotwar stadiums be thrown open to athletes?