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LAHORE: All the stakeholders need to come on the same page to promote sports as neither the government, national sports federations nor the Pakistan Olympic Association alone could achieve this huge objective, POA president retired Lt Gen Syed Arif Hasan said on Friday night.

Gen Arif said this while addressing a gathering at the POA offices to honour the Balochistan, Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa athletes who are in Lahore to compete in the ongoing 72nd Punjab Games as a sign of solidarity among the four provinces.

The Punjab Olympic Association has invited 15 athletes each from the three provinces to feature in the Games.

“Anybody through Google search can get the the information on what governments of all the countries of the world were doing for their athletes’ participation in Olympics and Asian Games; and how much they are spending on their sportspersons to earn medals,” the POA chief said.

“Every government across the globe has an integral part in promoting sports and sportspersons. Let me know a single country where [its] national Olympic committee is preparing or coaching athletes,” he asked. “It is the prime duty of the governments to invest in sportspersons and the POA has the mandate to give its athletes a way to compete in international competitions,” Gen Arif continued.

To a question, Gen Arif said he was ready to meet Federal Minister for Inter-provincial Coordination (IPC) Fehimda Mirza, adding there might be some misunderstanding that he did not want to hold a meeting with the minister.

Noting that this year’s South Asian Games were scheduled to be held in Nepal in December, the POA chief said a meeting with the IPC minister was very important for devising a strategy on holding training camps.

It may be mentioned here that the government has taken a stance that as the POA and the national sports federations are independent bodies, they are required to prepare teams for international competitions.

This approach of the government however has caused a disconnect between the national sports federations and the government as the federations have not received their annual grants for 2018-19 as yet.

Meanwhile, Punjab Olympic Association president Aamir Jan welcomed the delegations from the three provinces, saying their presence in Lahore would send a message of national solidarity.

Sports Board Punjab director general Nadeem Sarwar said he was delighted that the sportspersons were showing zeal for the Punjab Games, as they had got the chance to showcase their talent after a long gap of eight years.

He however lamented that the standard of sports in Pakistan had been at a low ebb in recent years. “All the stakeholders should combine and work for promoting sports.”

At the Punjab Games, the delegation of Balochistan and their players appealed to the federal government to develop sports infrastructure in their province underlining that the same was not possible for their provincial government due to limited financial resources.

Earlier, the participants of the Punjab Games also raised white cards to show their solidarity in connection with the ‘Peace and Sport’ day celebrated across the world on Saturday under the programme titled ‘Sports for Development and Peace’.

The contestants also welcomed the Punjab Olympic Association’s decision of inviting the athletes of other provinces to set an example for others to follow in future.

Published in Dawn, April 7th, 2019