The state government has continued to face severe criticism over the poor standard of accommodation that several athletes had to put up with ahead of the Meghalaya Games 2022.
Yesterday, photos of filthy toilets went viral on social media, with the claim that these were the facilities being given over to the athletes. Other photos also emerged of players having to bathe out in the open and having to sleep in rooms with water-damaged walls.
The Chief Minister tweeted about the issue and paid a surprise visit to the JN Sports Complex here last night to assess the situation for himself. Most of the affected athletes were then shifted to other accommodation.
Criticism for letting the situation get that far came in from political parties and pressure groups today.
The opposition Trinamool Congress’ Pynursla block committee deplored the “irresponsibility and lack of accountability” on the state government’s part. He also called for the resignation or removal of Sports and Youth Affairs Minister Banteidor Lyngdoh.
“It seems the MDA government is good in boasting of its achievements with its annual report but has not taken a look at the plight of the Sports Department,” the TMC’s block joint secretary Dominic S Wankhar said in a release. “It is a shock that the Chief Minister himself had to personally take things into his own hands, which shows that his cabinet colleague who holds the sports portfolio has not been responsible enough.”
Worth noting is that Lyngdoh has put the blame squarely on the Meghalaya State Olympic Association, both in a press statement yesterday and then again today in his speech at the Games’ opening. The MSOA is organising the event in collaboration with the Directorate of Sports and Youth Affairs. Lyngdoh is also the ex-officio president of the MSOA.
Meanwhile, brickbats even came in from the United Democratic Party, a member of the governing coalition. The UDP’s North Garo Hills unit condemned the organisers of the Games for alleged discrimination against Garo Hills’ athletes – many of those facing poor living conditions were from the western range of the state – and this is not the first time that they have faced such conditions, UDP NGH president Rakman Ch Marak said.
The Garo Students Union all expressed its “regret and displeasure” against the “ill treatment” meted out to athletes from Garo Hills.
“The Meghalaya Games, which is supposed to be celebrating youth, health and promote sportsmanship, discipline and integrity, opened its chapter with racism, biasness and an unpleasant method and tactics of de-motivating and discouraging athletes,” GSU president Zikku Balgra N Marak said.
From the other end of the state, the Jaintia Students Union also condemned the organisers. Sports secretary Ajoymeson Lyngdoh said that such unhygienic and substandard living conditions could have a serious impact on the athletes’ performances. Such mismanagement has “put the state in great disgrace”.