The lockdown which started on June 19 has rattled central Chennai, the sporting hub of Tamil Nadu. Traders of sports items, sports associations, gyms, swimming pools, coaching centres and lodges located near Periamet Nehru Indoor stadium, Egmore hockey stadium and Chepauk cricket stadium are winding up their operations unable to pay the rents and utility charges.
“To my knowledge, three gymnasiums have closed in Chennai and I closed down my 20-year-old gym in Pursawalkkam. It’s a tough decision for me but with rental arrears and loan interest piling up, I had no other choice,” said former Mr India TA Arunagiri. In my view, the State and centre have completely forgotten the sports industry during this pandemic and there should be some relief for us.
“March to June is the season for coaches to stay busy. The year 2020 has been the worst season so far and now when the schools reopen, the preference will be for studies,” opined former Chennai Corporation Swimming coach M Muniyandi, who trains young swimmers for national and international events. “Its been more than three months and there is no strategy from the State policymakers to resume sporting activities. In my view, there should be a new set of COVID guidelines for sports personnel to follow and get back on the field.”
Others pointed out that the only items that sell these days in a sports shop are indoor games like carrom and chess boards. “But the lockdown within lockdown has made me a pauper,” said Mohamad Riyaz, who owns a sports shop in Chepauk. Once fast-moving items like cricket bats, badminton rackets and football shoes are now gathering dust inside stores and the local traders are in deep financial mess, Riyaz added.