Saturday, December 25, 2010

Paralympic athlete stranded at aiport in India

From DNA India:

Imagine this: A wheelchair athlete, stranded at an international airport at 2 am, all by herself with absolutely no assistance, no money. Even worse — no ticket to travel back home.

Meet Manjula M, an athlete who suffers from scoliosis, a condition that affects the spine. She was the lone woman participant from Karnataka at the recently concluded Asian Para Games in Guangzhou. Manjula went through a harrowing experience on her way back to Bangalore.

The athlete, who earned a berth for the London Paralympics in 2012 after her eight place finish in discus throw, was abandoned at the Indira Gandhi International Airport after landing at 1.30 am on Thursday from Hong Kong.

Officials accompanying the athlete, including Shankar Iyer, treasurer of the Paralympic Committee of India (PCI), who are supposed to take care of the athletes, did not bother to book Manjula’s tickets from Delhi to Bangalore. Worse, they left her at the airport and departed to their respective home towns. “There were about six officials who had come as escorts for athletes travelling with me. None of them stayed back to help me. Would they have done this if their daughter was in my place?” questioned a teary-eyed Manjula, as she recounted her nightmarish experience.

Manjula was left unattended for hours before she contacted her personal coach in Delhi who helped her book a ticket back home. She landed in Bangalore only at 9.30 on Thursday night. The PCI officials brushed off the goof-up, terming it a small incident. “When a big contingent travels, such small incidents happen,” said Sathyapal Singh, an official who travelled with the team. “There was some miscommunication, but we took care of the matter,” he added.

The flight booking for all athletes are made from India before the team leaves for the Games.

The officials ignored the matter even though Manjula had reminded officials before departing from Guangzhou that her Delhi-Bangalore ticket had not been booked. There have been several other lapses by the officials at the Games.

On reaching the venue, Manjula was told that her name was missing from the list of participants.

She was a medal prospect for the country in the 53 category, but thanks to the PCI, which mismatched the entries, she was made to take part in a category that did not match her degree of disability.

When the athletics team manager Sathyanarayan was asked to take up the issue with the hosts, he simply said, “Just enjoy being in China, don’t bother about these things.”