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London Olympics: Too many, too soon

July 15, 2012


With London Olympics around the corner, Pakistan is all set to embark on the event. However it goes without saying that the 16 officials accompanying the 39-member squad are a sheer waste of our foreign exchange and an uncalled-for burden on our economy. As of now, the officials are about half in numbers as the players and could easily be cut down to as less as seven. This is an increase from the 37 member-squad which had attended the Beijing Olympic four years ago.

The 39-member contingent was recently announced by the Pakistan Olympic Association (POA) which claims almost total immunity from any sort of accountability by the government in its affairs. The POA claims the government interference is against the IOC (International Olympic Comittee)  charter but, at the same time, never misses an opportunity to get funds from Islamabad when they need resources to send its squads to participate in the international sports galas. The popular belief is that the POA is very much dependent on Islamabad to provide funds for the Olympic squad as well.

In 1980, when the US led a boycott against Moscow Olympic Games due to the USSR’s intervention in Afghanistan, the British Olympic Association (BOA) defied its government policy and sent its squad for the Moscow games. This demonstrates the BOA’s complete autonomy in taking decisions that matter, its sound financial position and its commitment to promote and develop sports activities in Britain.

Coming back to the point being discussed, it seems needless to send so many officials with the squad when the number can be easily reduced. For example, the six officials accompanying the Pakistan hockey team can be reduced to three since only these three officials, including the manager-cum-head coach, another coach and a physic are needed.

As for the other events such as athletic, swimming and shooting, Pakistan is not even a qualifier but is participating on the basis of wild cards awarded by the IOC to those countries which fare badly in international competition. The wild card policy is meant to encourage players to compete in mega events since they stand no chance of winning any medal.

Surprisingly enough the POA has assigned two officials each (a male and a female) for the two athletes and the two swimmers. The shooter is to have his own official. There is no justification for sending five officials with five wild card entrants when only one could have sufficed given that there is every chance that the entrants will be eliminated in the first few rounds.

Regarding the other five Olympic officials, the number could have been easily curtailed to three which includes chef-de-mission, a medical personnel and a secretary-cum-admin personnel. There is no need of a security official and an IT man who is going with the squad.

It remains to be seen as to which authority would take an action against sending so many officials, particularly when a Pakistan Sports Board official is also to become part of the contingent.