By Sandhya Nanu
Here are two scenarios.
One: India has been participating in the Olympics since 1900, (under the British rule), but has never won a medal in any swimming events. For the upcoming Rio Olympics 2016, only two of our athletes, Shivani Kataria, and Sajan Prakash, have been selected to represent India in swimming events.
While none of our swimming athletes reached the OQT (Olympic Qualifying time), the Fédération Internationale de Notation (FINA), an international governing body in the field of aquatics, awarded Universality places (when athletes are given permission to compete despite having failed to meet the A time, or OQT, but are selected by FINA for meeting the B time, or the Olympic Standard Time) to Kataria and Prakash, so that India doesn’t go unrepresented in the Olympics. Prakash was selected as the most eligible out of his colleagues, and the swimming federation of India chose Kataria since she was the only female athlete to compete at the Worlds.
Two: In Ahmedabad, women have complained about the lack of pool facilities and timings for them in public pools run by the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC). AMC has a total tally of 27 pools in the city, and only nine of them cater and run afternoon batches for women.
Women members complained about the cancellation of pool timings for them, a lack of women coaches, an atmosphere in which they are catcalled and teased by the men using the facilities, and poor excuses made by the management for lack of service.
The AMC, for its part has started a trial evening batch for women, which was hugely successful, but they refused to make the batches permanent. The AMC also claims that the female coaches hired for the trial evening branch have quit for personal reasons.
Do you see a link between scenarios One and Two? We do. It’s clear we need better sports facilities for women if we want to see sporting excellence as well. It’s worth the time, worth the money, and worth the effort. So can we have better access to sports facilities, please? The clock is ticking.