ISLAMABAD: The National Games torch reached Islamabad on Tuesday, amid the postponement of the much-awaited event which is being held after a gap of seven years.
The Games were slated to be held in Peshawar from October 26 to November 1 but on Tuesday, the Pakistan Olympic Association (POA) announced that it was deferring the event by two weeks. The POA announced, with the consent of the organising committee and the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government, that the Games will now be held from November 9 to 14.
“With the safety and security of the athletes always of paramount concern, the Pakistan Olympic Association, Organising Committee and the Government of KP have mutually agreed to reschedule the dates of the 33rd National Games,” the POA said in a brief statement. “The Games shall now be held from 9th to 14th November while the closing ceremony will be held on 15th November. The events, venues and details of events already notified shall remain unchanged.”
The delay in the Games comes due to a high risk of worsening law and order situation in Peshawar with some of the country’s leading political parties, led by Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam, set for an “azadi march” against the government on October 27.
In a video message on Tuesday the provincial Minister for Information Shaukat Yousufzai said that the games had been re-scheduled and added that the decision was taken with consensus in a meeting of the apex committee with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Governor Shah Farman at Governor House.
The minister said the Games were delayed following “suggestions of the security departments so that to avoid any complication”.
“The government wanted to hold the Games with full attention in a very befitting manner, as it is a mega event wherein at least 10,000 athletes would take part,” he said.
“Provincial minister for sports Mohammad Atif Khan also held a discussion with the POA president retired Lt Gen Syed Arif Hasan and the decision was taken with mutual understanding.
“The province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, especially Peshawar was going to become a hub of sports activities as the government was fully determined to promote sports, provide facilities to sports lovers.”
The decision to defer the Games overshadowed the arrival of the torch in Islamabad. It arrived nine days after the relay began in Karachi before travelling to Quatta, Lahore and Rawalpindi.
In Islamabad, the relay began with a function at the Higher Education Commission (HEC) where the torch was handed over to HEC acting executive director Dr. Fateh Muhammad Marri by Islamabad Olympic Association management committee chairperson Begum Ishrat Ashraf.
The torch then travelled to Daman-i-Koh, the city’s famed viewpoint, where it was received by Pakistan Air Force’s (PAF) commander Nosherwan and squash legend Jansher Khan.
Jansher wasn’t too pleased with the postponement of the Games.
“I eagerly travelled from Peshawar to Islamabad to hold the torch but the news of the postponement came to us while the torch was travelling in the capital,” he told Dawn.
“The country’s sportspersons have been eagerly anticipating the Games for the last several years and the postponement adds to the agony they have suffered,” added Jansher, asking the government to make sure that the Games are now held on the revised dates come what may.
Then torch was then brought to Faisal Mosque, where it was received by Pakistan Navy. Navy handed over the torch to Pakistan Army at the F-8 signal before it was brought to the Pakistan Sports Board (PSB), where athletes including Olympian Manzoor-ul-Hasan, Mohammad Usaman, Brigadier Zaheer Akhtar and Kabaddi player Mohammad Nasir carried it.
Federal Minister for Inter-provincial coordination Dr. Fehmida Mirza received the torch during a function held at the Jinnah Stadium.
“The Games would not only promote sports in the country but they will also promote the country’s soft image,” she said.
The torch will now travel to Azad Jammu and Kashmir.
Ali Hazrat Bacha in Peshawar and Mohammad Yaqoob in Lahore contributed to this report
Published in Dawn, October 16th, 2019