Mumbai marathon winners allege step-motherly treatment

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Mumbai, Jan 20 (UNI) The Indian winners of the Mumbai Marathon today alleged of a step-motherly treatment by the event's organisers.

The organisers' apathy was brought to the fore by the winners of the half- marathon in a heated news conference, with men's gold medallist Surinder Singh thinking of missing the event next year.

He said they decided to arrive here after being promised a lot of things, but none of the promises were fulfilled after they arrived.

''We were promised accommodation in a five-star hotel by the organisers but when we came here, there was nothing. I don't think I will come back the next year, if this is going to be the situation,'' said the army man.

Out of six athletes, five of them who finished on the podium and flew from Bangalore found themselves sorting out for food and accomodation details a day earlier rather than concentrating on the race.

''We didn't want to come to Mumbai,'' said Kavita Raut from Nashik, who won the women's half-marathon.

''We are practicipating for the Asian championship and this event was a hindrance to that. But the organisers requested a lot and promised that they will take care of the air-fare, accommodation and food.'' However, the Athletics Federation of India (AFI) co-ordinator Rohit Pawar, who had requested the athletes to come, said only one of them, Raut, was promised of the facilities and not the entire team.

''We had booked her in Hilton Towers but she didn't check in there, besides which we do not give facilities to half-marathoners,'' he said.

The Indian contingent said since they were training together, it would be unfair to accommodate people in different places.

''Our Russian coach Dr Nikolay said all of us have to stay together,'' Raut said.

Preeja Sreedharan, the silver medallist, argued for the athletes' concern, saying that they were an important part of the event but were not treated as such.

''I came a day early and had to stay in a dormitory called Narsimha Lodge not far from the venue,'' said the Bangalore girl.

''We are not asking for five-star accommodation but at least some decent place. The place I was staying in had no security; I had to sleep with my luggage in hand.'' As per the promised return air-fare, the three women together were paid Rs 5,000.

Though Pawar said the organisers would be reimbursing the athletes later, the Indian runners refused to take the small amount and have asked for full payment.

''Our coach said that if we take the money right now, the full amount will probably never come. I am saying this because it has happened earlier in Pune and Hyderabad, where we had to pay from our pocket,'' Raut said.

Surinder Singh was also disappointed that while Finland's Juti Utiranen, who stood second on the podium, was given facilities on par with the elite athletes, while the Indians were given a cold shoulder.

''I am not saying that the foreigners should not be treated well, but we deserve the same privileges,'' he added.

UNI GS AA/SSS RAR RAI1955

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