Security issue overshadows hockey World Cup

NEW DELHI: The strange ways of the stakeholders have ensured that the original objective behind holding the hockey World Cup in India — to revive the game in the country which taught the world how to play it — has been lost even before the event has begun.

With just four days to go for the event, there’s hardly any buzz around what is hockey’s showpiece event. There have been almost no attempt to involve the fans and give the event a broadbase; the media has been kept out of bounds even though the tournament is on our heads, thus not allowing it to let the public come face-to-face with the event.

All one has been hearing in the run-up to the Cup are jarring voices over never-ending controversies.

An inexplicable blanket ban on the media in the name of security cover, as well at the puzzling approach of the organisers, have meant that no one is talking hockey. The organisers are simply hiding behind one word: security.

Almost all the foreign teams are here in the city and the scribes have still not got access to either the squads or the competition venue, the Major Dhyanchand National stadium, as they have not been given accreditation cards. They have even been barred from interacting with the Indian players despite the fact that they have been training here for almost a fortnight now. As things stand now, providing security has become more important than hosting the World Cup itself.

There’s no doubt that security is of paramount importance, but it should not be as oppressive as it is right now. It should not create a wall between the players and the media, for the very purpose of playing sport gets defeated here.

At the team hotel, if you are lucky, you can reach the players by identifying yourself as an ‘acquaintance’ and can talk about everything under the sun except the game! The moment the monitoring security personnel, hovering all around the place, hear the word ‘hockey’, they promptly intervene. Surely, someone has goofed-up big time here.

With no interaction with players and no means to enter the venue, the expected hype is missing, something which has even disappointed the players. “It’s really bad. We are disappointed that there’s hardly any build-up. They should allow media to cover our practice sessions,” said an Indian player.

Hockey India and the International Hockey Federation (FIH) have done little to improve the situation. Rather, they have added to the confusion.

Sample this. On Tuesday noon, FIH tournament director Ken Read issued a statement saying that media access to training won’t be possible until “accreditations are active, which is expected to be on February 27th”.

Six hours later, the World Cup Co-ordination Commission announced after a meeting that the accreditations would be completed by Wednesday, “so that the accredited media could attend an interaction with the teams during practice at the National Stadium on February 25.”

The TOI has been highlighting the shabby manner in which the Commonwealth Shooting Championships, going on in the Capital, have been organised. Add to that the World cup mess and you can’t help but feel uneasy about the prospects of the Commonwealth Games in October.

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