Thiruvananthapuram: Multiple delays, continued teething troubles and the absence of big stars has robbed it of significant sheen but the 35th National Games would nonetheless be a huge platform for new talent to make a mark when the extravaganza rolls out here, from Saturday.
The infrastructure for the showpiece event, to be held across seven districts of the state, took such an eternity to come up that the Games are now being held a good three years later than originally planned.
Even a day before the action starts, the murmurs of not being "prepared enough" were occasionally heard from harried officials, who are still giving finishing touches to the arrangements. And the organisers would desperately hope to keep the proceedings at least close to smooth.
"We are experts at pulling things off at the last minute but we should get better than that. It is high time, isn't it," an official said lamenting the oft-repeated story of Indian sports.
The iconic Sachin Tendulkar being the Games Goodwill ambassador has added a fair bit of glamour to the event but the irony of it all can hardly be missed given that a superstar from a non-Olympic sport had to be roped in to prop up a showpiece of Olympic sports.
And more so after the small bunch of big Olympic stars in the country, who would have added sheen and value to the competition, decided to give it a miss. Shuttle queen Saina Nehwal couldn't make it due to other commitments, boxing's pin-up boy Vijender Singh is nursing a nose injury and top wrestlers Sushil Kumar and Yogeshwar Dutt have also pulled out among the big names.
The shooting range, however, will have its fair share of celebrated names with Olympic medallists Gagan Narang and Vijay Kumar set to represent Andhra Pradesh and Services Sports Control Board respectively.
The archery arena, set up in Kochi, will also be quite star-studded with the Asian Games individual silver-medallist and team gold-medallist compound archer Abhishek Verma in fray for Delhi.
But the boxing arena, which under ideal circumstances would have been a crowd-puller, is expected to be quite dull after most of the established pugilists decided to skip the event owing to the tug of war between the Indian Olympic Association and Boxing India.