With split athletes village, relaxed atmosphere and limited and reduced Covid-19 restrictions, the 22nd Commonwealth Games here are a unique experience for sportspersons.
Indian table tennis star Achanta Sharath Kamal says they are enjoying the relaxed atmosphere, which is quite different experience from the one he experienced at the Tokyo Olympics — which were held during peak Covid-19 pandemic, and is looking forward to winning some medals in this edition of the Commonwealth Games, which start here with the opening ceremony on Thursday.
Sharath is one of the most-decorated table tennis players in the Commonwealth Games with nine medals in five editions. He says the Birmingham Commonwealth Games village is the most unique and different experience for him.
“This is my fifth CWG but the most different one with different villages for a few different sports. We are put up in the NEC village along with badminton, boxing, netball and weightlifting teams,” Sharath told IANS in an exclusive interaction.
The 215-strong Indian contingent has been housed in five mini villages across the West Midlands region depending on how their venues are placed.
Sharath said because of the split villages, he will miss interacting with his friends from other sports. “Will be missing some of my friends in other sports like PR Sreejesh from hockey or Sourav (Ghosal), Joshna (Chinappa) and Deepika (Palikkal) from squash,” he said.
“Due to Covid, they split it up and personally for me it’s fine as the facilities are good and the venue is just five minutes away,” said the 40-year-old paddler from Chennai, a multiple time national champion who has been the flag-bearer for Indian table tennis for over nearly two decades.
Sharath said reduced Covid-19 restrictions make life easier for the players in Birmingham. There is no daily testing and also spectators.
“The restrictions are not too hard, but we are taking necessary precautions to be safe.
Compared to Tokyo it’s pretty relaxed here. Tokyo was being held amidst the peak of Covid-19, so every day testing and a lot of restrictions were there. Here we were testing on entry once and rules are not so strict inside the venues and villages,” said Sharath.
“It’s been a good experience and I’m looking forward to winning some medals this time too,” Sharath signed off.
Table tennis competitions start with the preliminary rounds for team competitions at the National Exhibition Centre (NEC) on July 29.