The colossal Jawaharalal Nehru Stadium was built in New Delhi in the year 1982 by the Government of India to serve as the main venue for the 9th Asian Games in the Indian capital. Essentially an Athletics arena, it has been utilized for multiple sports through the years, including Weightlifting and Lawn Bowls.
Notably, it was the flagship venue for the Commonwealth Games 2010, and was renovated a few months prior to the event for this very purpose. The extravagant opening and closing ceremonies were both carried out here.
Not many are aware of the fact that it has also played host to two One-Day International cricket matches, albeit not very recently. Even fewer would know that it has doubled up as a venue for concerts in the past. Amnesty International's Human Rights Now! Benefit Concert took place here in 1988, with famous musicians like Sting, Bruce Springsteen and Peter Gabriel performing.
JLN Stadium is now officially the hub of Indian Football. The National Team plays its home games in this 60,000 seater, as it has been handed over by the Sports Ministry to the All India Football Federation (AIFF). Most recently, it has hosted the SAFF Cup and the India versus Bayern Munich friendly match.
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As is the deal with most of the stadiums in Delhi, food arrangements in place are poor, and sadly lacking in variety. Potato wafers and sodas are available to the general public at inflated prices. Bottled water would cost no less than Rs. 20. You need to be a VIP seat ticket holder to be able to get your hands on the good stuff.
At the JLN, the atmosphere is sometimes good, sometimes just plain unimpressive. I have been witness to both. It largely depends on the occasion. The stadium was packed during the opening and closing ceremonies of the Commonwealth World Games in 2010. Baichung Bhutia's farewell game against Bavarian biggies Bayern Munich too had a healthy attendance, and the atmosphere was cracking on that day.
Other occasions, like the National Team's SAFF Cup triumph in the 2011 season, saw a poor turnout. People didn't exactly show up in big numbers. The atmosphere suffered as a result of this.
JLN Stadium is located on Lodhi Road. This being in South Delhi, we are talking about one of the best localities in the capital.
The Directorate General of Civil Aviation, Government of India, is in this area. Lodhi Colony and Jor Bagh are the residential areas surrounding the place.
The posh Khan Market, a frequent haunt for celebrities, is striking distance from the stadium. Here, the more famous eating joints include the Big Chill Café, Amici Café, Chonas, Khan Chacha's Kebab Corner and Side Wok.
India Habitat Centre is close-by, where some fine restaurants and eateries, such as Eatopia, are present.
Indian fans are some of the most passionate creatures around. They are always completely behind their athletes, and like to make their voices heard. Chants can be heard in all corners of the stadium on big occasions, like the Bhutia farewell game not so long back.
The Indian quartet of Ashwini Akkunji, Sini Jose, Mandeep Kaur and Manjeet Kaur won the Women's 4x400m relay race at the Commonwealth Games here at Nehru Stadium, leaving the home crowd in raptures. It was one of those magical moments that will remain etched in the memories of thousands.
The Delhi Metro rail service is one of the more convenient and affordable modes of transport in the city, although it can get more than just a little crowded on big days. JLN metro station on the Violet Line will take you directly to the stadium. Autorickshaw and taxi fares in the city continue to escalate. The two important parking lots near the stadium are at Sunehri Pulla and Kushak Nala.
During the CWG 2010, a park and ride facility was available at Safdarjung Airport. The shuttle service buses did the job of ferrying the masses straight up to the stadium complex.
Tickets for the CWG events were available in different categories, starting from Rs. 50 and going up to Rs. 4000. Through India's SAFF Cup winning campaign in January 2012, even the tickets in the highest denomination were worth Rs. 150, while the cheapest for the Bayern Munich friendly were for Rs. 150. General category tickets are always affordable, so I would never miss the chance to catch a high profile event at the JLN.
Brimming with world-class facilities and a 102 acre complex, JLN is a must visit for Delhi-based sports enthusiasts and tourists alike. After the renovation, it can certainly be described as a state-of-the-art arena.
JLN is massive and has a tremendous seating capacity.
The stadium has a unique membrane roof, and façade lighting to go with it. The two outer baskets-like supporting columned structures carry not only the compression rings but also the complete ramp system for access and evacuation.
The Field of Play for Athletics was designed to support High Definition Transmission with 2200 lux illumination. From the crowd's perspective, the field of view is great. It's just the quality of the general category seats that leave a lot to desire.
There are four synthetic turfs for Lawn Bowls.
JLN authorities sadly don't provide guided tours to the general public. Souvenir shops too are not present in close vicinity of the place.
**Photos by Devika Dua.
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