Hosting the South Asian Games

May 3, 2020

It’s time the authorities began building infrastructure for the regional sports extravaganza

As COVID-19 pandemic has created havoc all over the world, suspending all socio-economic and sports activities, it’s time Pakistan’s sports authorities planned for the 14th South Asian Games which the country is to host in 2021-2022. Hosting such international events provides a good opportunity to a country to improve its infrastructure which then meets the needs of its athletes for several years to come.

It’s a huge opportunity for Pakistan to hold the spectacle in the most befitting way. Already having hosted these Games in 1989 and 2004 in Islamabad, the sports authorities know their strength.

As around 15 years have passed since we last hosted the biennial spectacle we will have to host the Games this time keeping in view the demands of the current era.

Infrastructure development is one of the major areas in which Pakistan should start working from now. I have heard that the government has earmarked around Rs2 billion for this. Although we have smart infrastructure at the Pakistan Sports Complex in Islamabad, we need to further develop it.

Many of its halls are not fully equipped. Hostels condition also needs to be fairly improved. Sports authorities want to hold the Games not just in Islamabad but in Punjab’s major cities also. It’s not a bad idea. If we take a bold decision and work on it this can prove to be very productive. The competitions of particular sports disciplines can be held in areas where people love that sport. Kabaddi, wrestling, weightlifting and hockey can pull huge crowd in some areas of Punjab.

The football event can be a huge success if it is held in Karachi. Although administratively this will be tough and budget-wise resource-intensive, the outcome could be fantastic. Unless we take bold decisions we cannot succeed. Look at India. It has started hosting global events. India is making mistakes but it has started bidding for major events because it has infrastructure. We should focus on building infrastructure and allocate larger amounts for the purpose. We should conduct the spectacle in such a fine manner so that it could be called the best edition of the Games’ history. It would pave the way for hosting bigger events in future.

Definitely the host country also wants to win the largest number of medals. A comprehensive training strategy will be required for that. The help of the foreign coaches, where needed, will have to be taken. Pre-competition training tours will need to be managed for the athletes.

We failed to do well in the last two editions and should avail ourselves of this chance so that we could finish among the top two nations.

We will have to develop an effective publicity campaign to make the Games a huge success. Top-quality transport system will be needed if we are to hold some events in Punjab or other provinces of the country.

The revival of international cricket has boosted the soft image of the country. But hosting South Asian Games would completely wipe out the terror-related images of Pakistan from the minds of international community.

As India will also send its huge contingent, it will also play a role in bringing to normalcy the strained relationship between the two nations. Meetings regarding the spectacle should be made at the top level.

As currently there are no sports activities due to COVID-19 pandemic it’s right time for all the key sports stakeholders to interact and finalise a strategy.

The ministry for Inter-Provincial Coordination (IPC) and the Pakistan Olympic Association (POA) should rebuild their working relationships for the sake of the country and form committees so that the work could be started. We don’t have a lot of time at our disposal.

The authorities should also consider how the event could boost tourism in the country.

Infrastructure-wise the country should make itself so much equipped so that it could bid for any major event. We have the guts and can organise big international events as we have people in international sports federations enjoying good positions and they can easily bring any international event to the country.

Unless IPC and POA coordinate with each other, success at this stage will be elusive.

Let’s start and change the whole complexion of Pakistan’s sports by developing sports infrastructure.

Meanwhile, I would like to talk about the interview given to me by the president of Pakistan Handball Federation (PHF) Mohammad Shafiq the other day. He urged the state to go for building beach events infrastructure so that the teams could prepare well for the 6th Asian Beach Games to be held in China in November-December this year.

Shafiq is right. We don’t have beach events infrastructure. If we have to send our athletes to the Asian Beach Games it is the government’s responsibility to build infrastructure for training. “How can we win without proper training matches!” an athlete said while talking to ‘The News on Sunday’.

Natural beach environment is not necessary for beach events and that is why the federal government can raise beach infrastructure inside Pakistan Sports Complex, Islamabad. I hope IPC minister Dr Fehmida Mirza will consider these matters.

[email protected]

Hosting the South Asian Games