RAWALPINDI, April 10: After three postponements and fresh requests for rescheduling the event, the 9th SAF Games in Islamabad were cancelled on Thursday at a meeting of the South Asian Sports Federation (SASF).
“Our government and the Pakistan Olympic Association (POA) have decided to cancel the Games because the conditions are such that we have no control over them,” Wajid Ali Shah, the head of the POA, who chaired the meeting told journalists.
Attended by officials of Sri Lanka, Nepal and Afghanistan, the 29th Executive Committee meeting unanimously agreed to the cancellation but only after first insisting that Pakistan still organise the show.
Clearly disappointed, the chairman of the SAF Games Organising Committee (SGOC), Lt. Gen Syed Arif Hasan said that although it was the government’s decision he never wanted the Games to be cancelled. He estimated losses of between Rs 60 to 70 million because of the cancellation.
With just days left for the event to begin the Pakistan government had announced the postponement last month of the March 29-April 7 Games because of the US-led war on Iraq.
With the fate of the Games unclear, the organisers then set the date for the SASF Executive meeting to make a final decision.
Sri Lanka, the new hosts of the 9th edition, now have to decide when they would be able to stage the Games, Wajid said. “Now when they go back they’ll talk to their government about this and then get back to us.”
Thursday’s meeting was surprisingly not attended by delegates from Bangladesh, Maldives and Bhutan while India were never going to come to Islamabad.
The cancellation of the Games brought to an end a chapter that would be remembered more for the postponements rather than the preparations. “These would have been the best Games ever,” an official of the POA, who did not want to be named said.
Although the preparations may have been immaculate, yet the 9th edition has been luckless from the very start.
Originally scheduled for October 2001, the Games were first postponed because of the situation that emerged following the events of 9/11 as the region was not considered safe by the participating teams and delegates.
Rescheduled for March 2002, bad luck struck again as heightened tension between Pakistan and India over the disputed Kashmir region prevented the start and again the Games were re- set for March 2003, but who knew what was in store.