Delhi authorities on Thursday ordered all sports facilities to stay open until 10:00pm after a media report claimed that one stadium shuts early every evening — so that an official can walk his dog.
Built for the 2010 Commonwealth Games, athletes and coaches at the Thyagraj Stadium in the Indian capital New Delhi have to clear out by 7:00pm for the senior bureaucrat and his pet, The Indian Express reported.
“We used to train till 8-8.30 pm under lights earlier,” the newspaper quoted one unnamed coach as saying, publishing a photo of what it said was Delhi official Sanjeev Khirwar, a woman and a dog on the running track.
“But now we are asked to leave the ground by 7:00pm so that the officer can walk his dog on the ground. Our training and practice routine has been disrupted.”
The paper quoted the parent of one trainee athlete at the stadium, which is used by national and state athletes and footballers, describing the situation as “unacceptable”.
“(Can) you justify using a state-owned stadium to walk your dog? This is a gross misuse of power,” said the unnamed parent.
Khirwar, Delhi's principal secretary (revenue), confirmed to the paper that he walks his dog in the stadium but denied that others had been told to leave on his account.
“I would never ask an athlete to leave the stadium that belongs to them. Even if I visit, I go after the stadium is supposed to close,” the Indian Express quoted Khirwar as saying.
“We don't leave him (the pet) on the track... when no one is around we leave him but never at the cost of any athlete. If it's something objectionable, I will stop it.”
Manish Sisodia, Delhi's deputy chief minister, tweeted a photo of the article and said that the government “has directed that all Delhi Govt sports facilities to stay open for sportsmen till 10 pm”.
The graft-riddled 2010 Commonwealth Games remain the biggest sporting event that India has hosted.
The government spent several billion dollars on new facilities.
Most of the venues are still in operation although some are occasionally used for other events such as political rallies or concerts and the government has had to spend large sums on their upkeep.