Shillong, May 2: The Meghalaya State Olympic Association this evening raced to undo the damage done by photos that went viral on social media, purporting to show the conditions that athletes are having to live through at the start of the 4th Meghalaya Games 2022.

(Left) One of the photos that went viral. (Right) An image shared by the Meghalaya State Olympic Association to counter the prevailing narrative

More than 2,400 athletes from around the state are taking part, an increase of around 1,000 from 2020. Many are being put up in sports halls at the JN Sports Complex. While this alone is not unusual, the infrastructure there has deteriorated over the last two years, in part because of the Covid-19 pandemic but also because many of the buildings are slated to be renovated or torn down entirely as part of the massive programme of improvements meant for the complex and they have therefore not been maintained.

The MSOA has mentioned several times that there are issues with infrastructure given the renovations and had asked the participating sports associations and athletes to try and bear with them.

Today, photos of filthy toilets went viral on social media, with the claim that these were the facilities being used by the athletes. However, MSOA Working President and Co-Chairman of the Games, John F Kharshiing, said that they were photos of toilets that the athletes were instructed not to use.

“Prior to the Games, during inspection with field officers, the organising committee decided not to use these defective toilets which have not been used for a long time… We have organised and are using only the good toilets, including bio toilets in the indoor stadium and training hall,” Kharshiing said. “For the girls’ hostel, the toilets are good and clean. On receiving the pictures, we conducted an inspection immediately and it turns out that they are photos of toilets which all athletes have been instructed not to use.”

These toilet doors were sealed but today evening it was found that “some athletes have broken the sealed doors of the unuseable toilets”, he added.

MSOA General Secretary Finely Pariat also shared photos of perfectly acceptable accommodation in which athletes are being housed.

Other photos also emerged of players having to bathe out in the open and having to sleep in rooms with water-damaged walls.

Chief Minister Conrad Sangma, who is the chief patron of the event, took note and tweeted his disapproval, though it is not clear which photos he was referring to when he said,¬†“Saw the pictures of arrangements made for accommodation of our sportspersons in Shillong. Not acceptable at all. Have asked the officials to immediately take action and rectify.”

Sports & Youth Affairs Minister Banteidor Lyngdoh also instructed that the stay, food and sporting activities for the athletes who are camping in the city for the Games are of good quality.

“I have received reports that the accommodation, toilets and bath areas are not fit for sportspersons. The Meghalaya Games is being organised by the Olympic Association and I have instructed that the facilities for the athletes should be of good quality befitting the sportspersons,” Lyngdoh, who is also the ex-officio President of the MSOA, said in a statement.

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