A gorgeous chandelier hangs from the ceiling, right in middle of the ground-floor lobby of the hotel that is just wide enough for a makeshift boxing ring to be erected. It is an unusual place for a boxing competition, but the organisers of the 30th Adriatic Pearl Boxing Tournament had no option as Budva, Montenegro, has been in lockdown due to rising Covid-19 cases.
The Indians, who had to change four flights to reach Budva, are not complaining as they have won three gold medals so far. A few more are on the way, hopefully.
Spectators, who are actually boxers and officials from competing countries, lean on the railings of balconies of different floors to watch the action below. As if to give it a look of an indoor arena, national flags of the various competing countries hang from the railings.
“We changed flights four times to reach the destination. But we are happy that our team is doing well. All the officials and competitors are staying in the same hotel. Outsiders aren’t allowed inside the hotel. The makeshift boxing ring is installed at the ground floor while boxers can watch the bouts from the gallery,” India team coach Bhaskar Bhatt told IANS from Budva.
The tournament started on February 16, and Budva faced a complete lockdown a week before that due to spike in coronavirus cases. It was a tough call for India to travel to the coastal town.
“It certainly looked doubtful whether the local organisers would be able to conduct the competition under difficult circumstances,” said Bhatt.
According to Bhatt, the local government in Budva has imposed new measures to combat the surge in Corona cases.
“It was a total lockdown in the area due to an increase in the Covid-19 cases. All restaurants and schools have been shut down. But the Budva’s local boxing club, organisers of the competition, with support of the local municipality, swiftly moved the competition outside the city. It was a big relief for us as we wanted to give exposure to our boxers,” he said.
Another reason was that the Boxing Federation of India (BFI) was keen to prepare boxers with an eye on the AIBA World Youth Boxing Championships to be held next month in Poland, says Bhatt. So, missing out on the Budva competition wasn’t an option.
Around 136 boxers, including 36 in the women’s category, from 14 countries are competing in Budva.
“The competition concludes on Monday. Indian team has been doing fairly well in the youth category and we want to build up on that. Nearly four years ago, at the 2017 AIBA World Women’s Youth World Boxing Championships, held at Guwahati, the home team had reaped a rich haul of seven medals, five of those being gold,” Bhatt recalled.
India has won three gold and two bronze medals so far. There is expectation of a few more additions to the tally.