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Why leasing the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium is a blow to Indian sports

With the government planning to lease the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium Complex, the future of multiple sporting events stands at a crossroad.

Jawaharlal Nehru stadium lease government

Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in New Delhi (Source: Wikipedia)


Sayan Chatterjee

Updated: 24 March 2021 6:06 AM GMT

The Jawaharlal Nehru stadium in New Delhi has, for long, been the sporting hotspot of the city. It hosted the Commonwealth Games back in 2010 and was one of the venues for the U17 World Cup in 2017, with India playing all its three group stage games there. But now, according to the Indian Express, the central government has decided to lease out the stadium, amongst a host of other assets, to private entities with a view towards raising around Rs. 2.5 lakh crore in total.

At the time of writing this, the Nehru Stadium Complex is playing host to one of the three opening-day games of the Football Delhi Women's League, the official qualifying tournament for the Indian Women's League (IWL). It is also scheduled to host the first ever National U23 Athletic Championships in August this year.

In light of this, the government's decision to monetize the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium Project puts genuine question marks over the facility's usability as the default venue for state and national level sporting events. It also supersedes previous plans of refurbishing the stadium complex which was reportedly going to cost a whopping Rs. 8,000 crore.

The aforementioned project was supposed to ensure that the stadium conforms to the standards recommended by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), FIFA and World Athletics, with plans afoot to host the 2026 Youth Olympics and the 2030 Asian Games amongst other events. However, while there still hasn't been a significant update on this since the middle of last year, the recent development points towards a different direction being taken altogether.

To be giving the stadium on lease to private entities will possibly mean wholesale commercialization of the stadium. But with no apparent strategy on how this would involve multiple sporting events that take place in the state all throughout the year, all it does is jeopardizes the future of such events. Whether this is actualized remains to be seen but for the time being, due to the lack of further details and clarity over this, confusion is the one word that summarizes this situation the best.

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