THE small 10-member Pakistani Olympic contingent participated in the opening ceremony in Tokyo with high hopes. We had mixed emotions while watching them on TV screens. One feeling was that of happiness to see Pakistani men and women marching off with our flag held high. The second feeling was that of sadness at watching such a small contingent representing such a talented country.
We have a burgeoning population of more than 220 million, predominately in the young age group, which loves to play sports, but fail to make it big. We are proud of Arshad Nadeem and Talha Talib for coming so close to clinching a medal in javelin throw and weightlifting, respectively, and, indeed, of all the athletes for having worked hard and made it to the global event.
However, what they achieved was on the basis of their personal efforts. It is extremely depressing that the country over more than 70 years has been unable to create sports academies where talented young athletes may train for international events, especially world championships and Olympics.
Is there anyone who can show commitment and take responsibility for ensuring that our national talent does not get wasted?
It seems we need a collective effort to boost sports and talent in schools and colleges. And from there on we can spot the talent and nurture and groom them for future events.
Sialkot is famous for manufacturing sports equipment for the international market and exports goods worth $1 billion annually. Thousands of people are employed to support this industry. The businessmen of Sialkot have also successfully launched the third private airline of the country, which is considered pretty professional.
It would do wonders if the people of Sialkot, especially businessmen, set up a sports academy to train talented individuals and give them the confidence they need to participate in international events and, ultimately, Olympics.
The Sialkot-based airline can be used to transport the athletes to the events nationally and internationally. Let us not blame the government over everything. Let us ask our sports industry leaders to take the lead in the matter.
PAKISTAN’S performance at the Olympics is not a matter of surprise. We first participated in the summer Olympics in 1948 in London and over all these years our medal tally stands at 10; three gold, three silver and four bronze.
And out of these 10 medals, eight have been won in field hockey, while the remaining came in wrestling and boxing. We won the last medal at the Olympics in 1992 at Barcelona, a bronze, while the last gold medal came in 1984 at Los Angeles; both in hockey.
The medal drought, as one can see, has a history. So calling the current Olympics ‘disappointing’ or talking about it as ‘a missed opportunity’ is not fair. The Pakistan Olympic Association (POA) has been under the same leadership for almost two decades, and has no medal on its record to justify its presence in office.
The prime minister, who himself has been a celebrated sportsperson of global repute, should look into this matter.
Sheikh Taimur Nawaz
Published in Dawn, August 12th, 2021