Jayalalithaa dead: Sportspersons in Tamil Nadu will forever remain indebted to late CM

Sportspersons in Tamil Nadu will forever remain indebted to former Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa (her name is sometimes spelled Jayalalitha) for quite a few reasons. It is her far-sightedness that resulted in Chennai getting some impressive sporting arenas including the Jawaharlal Nehru stadium and the tennis stadium.

C Shyam Sundar December 06, 2016 14:16:22 IST
Jayalalithaa dead: Sportspersons in Tamil Nadu will forever remain indebted to late CM

Sportspersons in Tamil Nadu will forever remain indebted to late Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa (her name is sometimes spelled Jayalalitha) for quite a few reasons. It is her far-sightedness that resulted in Chennai getting some impressive sporting arenas including the Jawaharlal Nehru stadium and the tennis stadium.

From a city that was starved of top-flight sporting action to a hub of activity, that is the story of Chennai. And, a lot of credit for that goes to Jayalalithaa. She has been the driving force behind improving sports infrastructure in the city and other parts of the State.

She was instrumental in Chennai hosting the prestigious World Chess Championship match between home favourite Vishy Anand and Magnus Carlsen. Jayalalithaa allocated Rs 29 crore for conduct of the world title match, which went on to become hugely followed.

Jayalalithaa dead Sportspersons in Tamil Nadu will forever remain indebted to late CM

J Jayalalithaa. AFP

It was a momentous occasion for fans in these parts got to watch India's own legend in action against a prodigious talent, whose stock was rising.

She took personal interest in conduct of the mega event and was present at the opening ceremony and drew the lots for choice of colour and gave away the prizes at the valedictory.

That is not all, Jayalalithaa's role in helping the city retain hosting rights of the ATP tournament can't be overemphasised. It must be recalled that at a time when the event looked in the limbo as the original sponsor backed out in 2005, she stepped in and announced that the Tamil Nadu government would step in to ensure it went on without any hitch. The government has since been one of the Platinum Sponsors and has been a key mover behind the championship's conduct with Jayalalithaa's guidance.

For a State which seemed to lagged behind in organising and conducting sports meets, things changed in 1993 when the State hosted the Nehru Gold Cup football tournament at the newly built Jawaharlal Nehru stadium in January. The facility, a dream of then Tamil Nadu Football Association secretary C R Viswanathan, was of international standards and has since seen several memorable sporting events take place.

However, it was the South Asian Federation Games in December 1995 and the government's initiative to prepare the city for the event, which marked a turning point in the sporting ethos of Chennai.

For sports-lovers in Chennai, the SAF Games will continue to be the high point of the sports organisation in the city. The impressive Nehru stadium was host to the main football and athletics events but then the other stadia built for the Games were also impressive. Through 1994 and 1995 the city acquired several more stadia, all in keeping with the highest international standards.

The Mayor Radhakrishnan Hockey Stadium in Egmore underwent a sea change. A new astro turf was laid, bigger stands were built and the venue was fit enough not only to host the prestigious hockey event of the SAF Games but also the Champions Cup hockey tournament the next year. An indoor stadium close to Nehru stadium was the venue of volleyball, basketball, badminton and table tennis events and the Velachery aquatic complex was home to all the water sports contests. Among the other stadiums, the SDAT Tennis stadium in Nungambakkam, which hosted the tennis event of the SAF Games, has been on the international map. It has since seen some of the biggest names in professional tennis including Boris Becker, Pat Rafter and Rafel Nadal among others take part.

There were apprehensions that after the SAF Games, the imposing stadia would be white elephants. However, it turned out that they have been used by the various associations and competitions conducted regularly to ensure that the facilities are used for the very purpose they were constructed.

That is not all, the 'elite sportspersons scheme' was her brainchild and Jayalalithaa made sure that athletes in the State got to use the best facilities apart from presenting cash awards for those winning medals at Olympics, Asian Games and Commonwealth Games. The CM's Trophy tournament across the State with a prize money of Rs 1 lakh for the winners was another scheme aimed at unearthing talent in rural areas.

In her passing, Tamil Nadu and its sportspersons have lost a great patron and well-wisher.

By arrangement with newstodaynet.com

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