As a grandmother of two, I take a lot of interest in public parks where toddlers can play in pleasant and clean surroundings, and even be coached for sports as they grow up. Three decades ago when we were bringing up our boys in Delhi, such opportunities were open only to those who could access private clubs such as the Gymkhana Club, or a place like the National Stadium. I recall when I picked up the courage to pay a reasonably handsome amount for annual membership, I would take them to DLTA lawns opposite the Deer Park. There was no public sports complex where at one location they could swim, jog, play badminton, tennis, squash, football, basketball, hockey or cricket.
Things have definitely changed for the better in Delhi. When I take my grandsons to the Siri Fort Sports Complex, I find Delhiites of all ages and classes coming together to share the common facilities for outdoor activity in an ambience embellished by its historic surroundings. The Complex, spread over 32 acres in the heart of posh South Delhi, sits atop Siri, the second city of Delhi, built by Alauddin Khilji in 1303 as a fortified walled city to protect its people from repeated attacks by the Mongols, hence the name Siri Fort. A fragment of the fort’s wall, protected by the Archaeological Survey of India, can be seen from the grounds of the Sports Complex. The area was reserved in the Master Plan as “green in-city forest”. The Sports Complex is therefore at the meeting point of antiquity and modernity in Delhi, serving the dual purpose of conservation and recreation.
The Siri Fort Sports Complex was formally inaugurated by the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) in 1989. Often referred to as a gift of the Asian Games of 1982 to Delhi, the Sports Complex is a multi-facility institution Delhi can be proud of. It started with a golf driving range for learners, which was followed by the development of a 10-metre air rifle/pistol shooting range, a cricket ground and a jogging track in 1991. Slowly, over the years, it added indoor facilities of squash courts, tennis courts, and a gym, and outdoor facilities of a skating rink, a children’s park and a number of tennis courts.
A swimming pool came into the Sports Complex in 1994, a football field in 1998 and a 9-hole mini golf course soon thereafter. And that is