FOR about 30 minutes at the Tokyo Olympics weightlifting competition last week, Talha Talib remained in the podium places, on the brink of ending Pakistan’s 29-year drought for a Games medal and an even longer wait for one in an individual sport. It was in Seoul 1988 when boxer Hussain Shah won only the country’s second medal in an individual sport when he picked up the bronze, following wrestler Mohammad Bashir’s bronze in 1960. Talha seemed poised to become the third but his eventual fifth-place finish started a debate, one that arises each time the Olympics come around and dies down soon after: what will it take for Pakistan to be successful at the Olympics? It leads to questions about the government’s role, especially that of the Pakistan Sports Board. It leads to questions about the role of the Pakistan Olympic Association. After Talha’s performance, a blame game ensued between the POA and PSB. The former claimed its job is to promote the Olympic charter in Pakistan while it’s the latter’s job to fund and develop sport. The PSB’s decision to return Rs440m of unspent funds to the government at the end of this financial year especially came under fire.

Talha’s performance was a bright spot at a so far dismal Olympics for Pakistan. And it came in the tenure of a government led by a former sportsman. If sports in the country aren’t reformed during Prime Minister Imran Khan’s term, one wonders if it will happen at all. The government’s role in sports development needs to be reassessed. The various sports federations which form the POA need to be streamlined; reforms need to be brought in so that funding can be accessed without the government worrying whether it will actually reach the athletes. It is ironic that Talha was at the Olympics without his coach and was instead accompanied by the weightlifting federation president. India’s Olympic Association has moved towards financial independence from the government and has brought in new revenue streams. It has worked on securing greater funding from the International Olympic Committee’s solidarity plan to develop athletes, coaches and teams. It even makes public its audit; something neither the POA nor the sports federations here do. Pakistan’s Olympic revival will only happen if professionals are brought in to run sports federations, including the POA and PSB, instead of retired personnel from the army and other institutions as well as politicians who have a tendency to overstay their welcome.

Published in Dawn, August 1st, 2021

Opinion

Big win, bigger challenges
Updated 19 Sep 2021

Big win, bigger challenges

Pakistan should be smug. It is not. There are a number of likely scenarios that must be the source of its unease.
Power of stays
19 Sep 2021

Power of stays

Great power means no one dare ask you questions.
Local decay
18 Sep 2021

Local decay

The set-up in Sindh exercises total control over LG functions.

Editorial

Talking to the Taliban
Updated 19 Sep 2021

Talking to the Taliban

PRIME Minister Imran Khan has announced that he has started a dialogue with the Taliban for the formation of a...
New Zealand’s departure
Updated 19 Sep 2021

New Zealand’s departure

THERE was chaos and despair when New Zealand decided to call off their tour of Pakistan barely minutes before the...
19 Sep 2021

Crucial polio campaign

THE national vaccination campaign that kicked off in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa on Friday is being described by experts as...
Blinken’s remarks
Updated 18 Sep 2021

Blinken’s remarks

The US establishment cannot scapegoat Pakistan for two decades of bad policy in Afghanistan.
18 Sep 2021

Worrying survey

THE findings of the Labour Force Survey 2018-19 indicate that some important headline trends have already taken or...
18 Sep 2021

Special needs

THE fact that only 3,653 children with special needs, out of some 300,000 in Sindh, are registered with the...