Basketball enthusiasts in the capital were greeted with a surprise notice yesterday when they, as usual, came to play at the swimming pool complex. They were asked to enter the indoor basketball court at their own risk.
The Bhutan Basketball Federation has now confirmed that the complex, built in the early 1970s, is not safe, especially after the recent earthquakes. Much to the credit of the federation, this is a timely warning. If the structure is not safe and has to be demolished completely, it is not advisable to use it. Basketball enthusiasts will understand it. Safety should come first and it is a wise decision the federation took.
Without many facilities around, many youth hang around the indoor complex and, with the popular Coronation Cup around the corner, the crowd could be even bigger as they come for practice sessions. The hall may not collapse now, but, if experts have warned, it is wiser to not even let people in at their own risk. The federation could be spared legal obligations, but should anything happen, the repercussions could be regretful.
Meanwhile, as the federation explores options to conduct the prestigious Coronation tournament, and basketballers look for other courts to hone their skills, it is worth asking why we have only one indoor court in a country, where the sport is hugely popular. Basketball is one sport that has been around for decades. It is one sport Bhutanese are good at.
Not long ago, it was Bhutanese students, who dominated the game in the sub-Himalayan region for years. Most school teams in all sports were practically made up of Bhutanese students. Basketball was a number one choice of sport even with the physical disadvantage. Some have received scholarships because of their skills. Basketball is still popular and, with the advent of television, where NBA games are broadcast live, interest has increased.
What has not picked up surprisingly is the infrastructure. In a society, where more than 45 percent of the people are youth, adequate sports facility is a must. Our decision makers are well aware that lack of areas to spend quality time is fanning youth-related problems. Sport is one area that the young can spend time meaningfully. This is encouraged in schools, at all levels.
There is rhetoric extolling the virtues of sports; unfortunately this is not backed up by actions. We have more than a thousand bars, yet just two indoor basketball courts. We have at least a dozen archery ranges in the city and its periphery, but not many for the youth.
If we are to encourage sports in the country, we need facilities. With the government discussing budget today, it would be a good time to think again about the budget allocated to sport facilities in the country.