It is a million dollar question that where will Pakistan be hosting the South Asian Games whenever its turn comes.
Strangely, there was no word or recommendations made by the Pakistan Olympic Association (POA) to the government at the much talked about sports seminar — The Way Forward — held under their auspices at Lahore in January.
Since the inception of the Games in 1984, the last 33-years have witnessed only 12 editions held with India and Bangladesh sharing half-a-dozen among them.
While India has staged the Games in three different cities — at Calcutta in 1987, at Chennai in 1995 and at Guwhati/Shillong in 2016, Bangladesh has organised all the events at Dhaka in 1985, 1993 and 2010.
Three countries — Pakistan, Nepal and Sri Lanka — have organised the Games twice apiece. Pakistan had conducted at Islamabad in 1989 and 2004, Nepal at Kathmandu in 1984 and 1999 and Sri Lanka at Colombo in 1991 and 2006.
The Games will return to its birthplace, Kathmandu, in 2018 if not postponed for any reason.
Bhutan, Maldives and Afghanistan are the three other countries in the eight-nation block. The latter made their debut in the ninth SA Games held at Islamabad in 2004.
The government had launched SAVER (Sports Association for Veteran’s Rehabilitation) raffle in 1989 to raise ample funds for the spectacle while another similar lottery was initiated for the 2004 extravaganza.
Unfortunately, veteran sportspersons alleged that after the events, the leftover money of the raffles was not properly spent as promised.
Over 2,000 athletes including women have participated in 20 disciplines of the last Games in the Indian cities of Guwahati and Shillong. Pakistan was represented by a 400-plus contingent. It is an irony that with the exception of Islamabad’s PSB Sports Complex, the country doesn’t have an Olympic stadium and a multi-purpose gymnasium in any provincial capital to host such a mega event.
It is need of the hour that the government, in collaboration with the four provinces, should take initiative of building Olympic size sports projects and high-rise residential village in the outskirts of Karachi, Lahore, Peshawar and Quetta at the earliest.
It was more than a decade back that a proposal for allocating 5,000 acres of land for sports city on the super highway was put forward by the Sindh Ministry for Sports to then chief minister for his nod but to no avail.
Primarily, it was aimed at creating international standard infrastructure at one place capable of hosting top class competitions including the South Asian Federation (SAF) Games in the future.
All the four provincial governments should start planning in this regard forthwith and in the first step earmark piece of land in consultation wit the POA.
While doing so, the government should keep the POA into loop for designing state of art Olympic stadium, residential village and other sporting facilities up to the international mark. If planned now, these long-term projects will take couple of years to be completed.
“Yes it was a provincial cabinet decision mooted in 2005 but no headway has been made yet,” the then Karachi Commissioner, Shoaib Ahmad Siddiqui, had confided to Dawn three years back.
He had told that while serving as provincial secretary for sports and youth affairs he had attended couple of meetings also in this regard. He had cited lack of identification of land by the board of revenue as one of the possible factors for inordinate delay of the proposed project.
Published in Dawn, March 3rd, 2017