Sunday, November 29, 2009

Athletes at International Wheelchair and Amputee Sports World Games face inaccessible stadiums in India

From Express Buzz in India:

BANGALORE, India -- Athletes participating in the International Wheelchair and Amputee Sports (IWAS) World Games here have expressed dissatisfaction over lack of facilities, including ramps, at the venue, Shree Kanteerava Stadium.

"The stadium has no ramps to support wheelchair-bound sportspersons like me. I am finding it hard to negotiate from one corner of the stadium to another," Pragya Ghildial, 26-year-old wheelchair-bound table tennis player, told IANS Nov. 25.

The Games were flagged off Tuesday and conclude Dec 1.

The stadium is also short on hygiene with dirty toilets.

"It seems everything is in a mess. The stadium is not at all disabled friendly. It is hard for us to enter cramped toilets. I wonder why the authorities have not taken measures to ensure basic facilities for the sportspersons at an international meet?" asks Nirmal Singh, 24, who has come to participate at wheelchair rugby.

The international sporting event has brought together 604 athletes from 43 countries participating in 11 disciplines: athletics, archery, sitting volleyball, table tennis, wheelchair rugby, badminton, golf, power lifting, wheelchair fencing, shooting and swimming.

The IWAS is an international sports organisation that governs sports for wheelchair-bound people and amputees. IWAS World Games is held every two years. The event here has been organised by IWAS in association Paralympic Committee of India (PCI).

Sportspersons are also fuming at the delay in arrival of vehicles to ferry them from their hotel to the stadium.

"It's unimaginable for us to get into vehicles which do not have low floor. We have to struggle hard to get inside a car," rued a Brazilian player who does not wish to be named.

The chaos on Bangalore's roads adds to the problem.

"City roads are too chaotic for us to venture out on our own," he said.

The organising committee, however, dismissed the problems as "hiccups" that could not be avoided as it was for the first time India was hosting an international event for disabled sportspersons.

"We are trying to do our best with available infrastructure. Hope the event will be a learning experience for us in future events. Moreover, PCI is a body formed only four years ago," said a PCI official.