Sports Monks

Try as hard, this ‘bubble’ can’t be burst

Inside the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Kolkata situated right beside the Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan complex, certain guests are left perplexed as to the reason why a series of sections are cordoned off by queue-managers and security guards.

A family of four unknowingly approaches one of the elevators that is cordoned off with a placard placed in front of it mentioning: ‘For Hero I-League Qualifiers 2020 Personnel Only.’ They are instantly stopped by one of these security guards, who ushers them to yet another elevator.

“I’m sorry ma’am this elevator is not for general use. This is only for the players, coaches and officials,” says the security guard. Perplexed, the family waits for the non-bubble elevator to arrive.

As a group of players, returning from their breakfast table, head towards the cordoned-off elevator; they are stopped by the security guard as well.

“Only four people inside the lift at a time, please!”

A number of strict measures have been put in place at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Kolkata, and that has been one of the key highlights of the stay of the five teams and all the match officials that are operating in the safety of the bubble environment.

Sayan Saha, who is one of the security guards who have been placed in front of the elevators of every floor where the players and officials of the COVID-safety bubble would go, makes sure that the bubble is not broken.

“We always have security guards at these stations in rotational shifts. It does get a bit boring on match days, when most of the teams are out. The bubble space is empty. But we still have to make sure that anybody who is not within the bubble does not enter the demarcated bubble zones,” said Saha.

“Everyone within the bubble is mandated to wear their accreditation cards and masks if they are to leave their rooms and go to other bubble zones. That way, we can be sure that the correct people are getting into the correct zones,” he stated.

Downstairs in the dining hall, another strict set of norms are followed by the hotel staff that have been put in place to ensure the safety of those that are within the COVID-safety bubble.

Executive Chef at the Hyatt Regency, Vikas Singh explains that an entire restaurant within the hotel has been dedicated to the creation of the COVID-safety bubble.

“We have had to change a lot of things to create a safe environment for the players and the officials in the bubble,” he explained.

“Generally we would have centralised stocks of food and crockery. But that is not the case now. Just for the bubble dining area, we have had to triple the crockery that we have, so that no other dishes are used in the bubble,” said Singh. “Even the raw materials that we get for our guests in the bubble are acquired by the personnel who are also within the bubble. They are all tested every 5-6 days. I myself have also been tested so many times. We are taking every step to make sure that everyone is catered to in a safe manner,” he informed.

At the dining hall itself, a massive scale of coordination goes into place between the members of the Local Organising Committee, and the restaurant staff. Only two teams are to dine together at a time, and different tables are assigned to each club.

The timing slots for the breakfast, lunch, high tea, and dinner of each team are provided by the LOC members who are in constant consultation with the staff.

Once a team moves out the hotel staff instantly swoop in with their sanitising sprays. The tables and chairs are sanitised, fresh tablecloths are placed and only then, is the next team ushered into the dining space. All this is done within the space of 15 minutes.

“The touching of food is a big issue when it comes to a buffet. We try to make sure that this does not happen. Our staff is present to serve the food to the players. We have also created little booths where the players can collect their plates. These booths have glass shields in front of them, so that everything can be managed in a safe manner,” stated Chef Singh.

Once their breakfast or lunch is done, the players then freshen up and head to training or a match which again requires a certain level of coordination. Half-an-hour before a team bus is supposed to be used, the entire bus is sanitised, and it is parked in front of the bubble entrance of the hotel.

Amal Naskar, who drives one of these buses, explains: “It is very important to keep everyone safe during these times. That is why we sanitise the bus before every use. I have my bottles of sanitisers ready in the bus itself in case anybody needs to use them. I also wear my mask, face shields and gloves all the time, so that everyone feels safe.”

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