Thiruvananthapuram: A double onslaught by an angry media and an aggressive Left opposition had cast doubts on whether the 35th National Games could even be held on time. But the Kerala government has now won all-round praise from the prime minister, the president and the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) for the successful conduct of the Games.
The two-week-long event ended Saturday night with a glittering closing ceremony at the newly-built state-of-art stadium here.
The trouble started when it became known that a leading regional daily had secured a contract for conducting the curtain-raiser event Run Kerala Run across the length and breadth of the state last month.
Until then, the media had given positive news about the manner in which the state government was working overtime to finish around 20 brand new venues. When this news came out, things turned upside down and out came numerous allegations of cost overlays which even led to discussions about the Games being postponed to September.
Adding fuel to the fire created by the media, the Left opposition came out blazing and started a series of resignations from the 24 various committees that were formed for the smooth conduct of the Games.
But things cooled down a bit when Run Kerala Run turned out to be a big event which saw people coming out in huge numbers, making it the most keenly participated event. The Kerala government owes a special thanks to cricket icon Sachin Tendulkar who was the brand ambassador for the event besides being the goodwill ambassador for the 35th National Games.
However, things appeared to go from bad to worse when the opening ceremony turned a cropper after the inferior quality debut performance of 'Lalisom' -- the new music band of superstar Mohanlal -- and the organisers came under flak for paying the superstar Rs.1.63 crore for staging the event.
Things cooled down when the actor returned the money and to assuage his ego, Chief Minister Oommen Chandy and Kerala Sports Minister Thiruvanchoor Radhakrishnan headed to his home to mollify him.
Even though he did not take back the money, he agreed that he will give his proposal on how the government should utilise it.
But the men who came for the flak most were the chief executive of the Games, Jacob Punnoose, a former director general of police, and Radhakrishnan and every word these two spoke came for threadbare discussion on TV channels.
"Yes, I am relieved that not a single complaint has come up against the organisers from the close to 10,000 athletes and officials who were in Kerala for the event. This in itself is a great reward for our team," said Radhakrishnan.
Chandy also appeared relieved and said his government was committed to the future of sports in the state.
"We will do our best for them and right now state-of-art sporting infrastructure is there in the state. Apart from that, we will open a new sports school and a new sports college for our aspiring sportspersons to pursue their education," said Chandy.
"Very soon a new sports policy will be in place and which will have all the details on what we plan to do for our sporting talents," said Chandy.
Now all await keenly the report of the audit of accounts of the Games, announced last week by Radhakrishnan. The Kerala sports minister said the audit report by the Local Fund Audit would be ready in 45 days.