If you thought not many people would like to wake up before sunrise, even more so on a Sunday. Going by the numbers in attendance at the Mumbai leg of the Tour De India, it seemed like the Tour, into its second year would be remembered for the right reasons.
But with things going from bad to worse as time progressed, Sunday's event at the Bandra-Kurla Complex wouldn't be remembered by cycling enthusiasts for the right reasons.
Lack of co-ordination between organisers and traffic police, mismanagement of time, clueless volunteers as ground stuff, kids getting lost, angry parents, poor
treatment to international cyclists.
One would clearly not expect such lack of professionalism at an event which puts Indian cycling on the world map. What's worse, the highlight of the tour being the Bandra-Worli sea link was shut for the International category of the cyclothon. The result, top international cyclists taking 10 rounds of 2.5km around the BKC complex much to the dismay and frustration of the average Mumbai commuter.
The anger continued at the Bandra-Worli Sea-Link which saw the Green Cyclothon contestants being held up for a good half an hour next to the toll plaza at the Bandra side. Within minutes it turned into a scuffle with the public directing chants towards the organisers and the Mumbai police. "People would always blame the police. But if you've come to cycle, stick to that instead of clicking 'selfies' on the sea-link. The sea-link is not your private property. We're running on a tight schedule.
How is it our problem if the organisers can't start a race and see to it that the people are well behaved our concern." said a constable. "The event may boast of a record number of entries, but what can you do about the mentality. I was there to photograph the cyclists, but it was shocking to see some of them stop on the sea-link and click pictures. What are they trying to prove?" said Vikas Birla, a freelance photographer present at the time this event took place.
The disgust amongst the public reached its peak during the Champion Cyclothon category which saw children participate. If the race starting on time wasn't enough, kids getting lost resulting in parents losing their cool towards the anchors blaming them and the organisers for the shoddy show put up.
"I'm a mother, isn't that enough for you guys?" said an agitated parent after finding her son to the media. "After today, parents will think again before registering their kid next year. We want the best for everyone. Then why are these people giving us a cause for concern." said another.
Deepankar Lamba, 21 was the best example of how bad the mismanagement was. Lamba had registered for the Full Cyclothon category but managed to sneak in into the International category completing three rounds before pulling a thigh strain. "Who can give up the chance to race with international cyclists. Why are you blaming me for entering the race? Shouldn't you blame the organisers. Trust me, if you'd come with a bike and shorts, they'd have allowed you to race."
"We were supposed to get timers for our race and had even paid an extra 500 rupees along with the registration. They were no where to be seen so we don't even know how much we've clocked. Why do we even perform if it comes to such a bad state. Even after the race got over, no one had to clue regarding the final standings." said Amrut Kadam who participated in the Half Cyclothon.
One of the first things any marathon or cycling event has to get right is getting the traffic and roads sorted. This was one 'obstacle' that sadly wasn't dealt with.
"How can you organise a race where a traffic signal decides when we stop and when we start. What kind of a joke is this. Races happening simultaneously on the same route. Kids racing at the same time when there are cyclists right behind them. Do we need an accident to happen for these people to wake up. A lot of people have woken up early and come here in the hope that this event will put Indian cycling on the world map. Is this the example we're setting." said Suhail Merchant, one of the many angry cyclists.
The cherry on the cake came in the treatment shown to Stephan Voormans, professional para-cyclist from Germany. Voormans was supposed to race with Bollywood actor John Abraham over a length of two kilometers in his custom made cycle. Having arrived at the venue at seven, Voormans was made to wait for more than an hour with there being no news if his race would take place or not. "This is a man who has participated in international events across the world. I know we're making initial steps but at least show some standard." said Maria D'mello, Voorman's family friend.
On the other side, Dr. Akil Khan, Chairman of Tour De India was equally shocked looking at the poor show put up citing a complete lack of response and co-operation between the ground staff and the Mumbai traffic police. "To host an event of such magnitude, it is extremely important to have the support and permission of the traffic police and the city officials. It is shocking and surprising to see what happened today considering we had permission from each and every department concerned from the government of Maharashtra. The event was officially approved by the Tourism Ministry of Maharashtra. We had the approval of the collector, the BMC and the Mayor as far as the routes and permission for the sea-link was concerned. It's really sad to see things going for a complete toss after having so many meetings with the people who were supposed to ensure a smooth functioning. Plus the Pinkathon being held simultaneously on the same route didn't really help our cause. Every single police station along the route was briefed about today. We expected better from the Traffic Police today. We couldn't have done much. I am officially writing to the Home Minister as to why an international event was given such a treatment. They should have said no if they didn't want to hold the race in the first place"