The Games, which are expected to feature thousands of athletes from across the country, are slated to be held from October 7-14 in Quetta. A record amount is being spent on the competitions which were postponed last year due to fragile security situation.
An organiser told ‘The News on Sunday’ (TNS) that each province has been given a quota of 400-member contingent, while Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and Islamabad have been given a quota of 150 each.
Besides Gilgit-Baltistan and Azad Jammu and Kashmir, who are expected to field a substantial number of athletes, departments are set to field their heavy contingents in the biennial extravaganza which last time was held in Lahore in 2012.
It was the time when Pakistan Olympic Association (POA) and Pakistan Sports Board (PSB) were embroiled in a conflict over the implementation of national sports policy. Army, who are the undisputed champions, did not feature in those Games because of the conflict.
In 2013, a parallel POA led by Gen Sahi conducted National Games in Islamabad which were won by Army. But that edition is not in the record books because of its disputed nature.
But the real issue for the organisers is that till writing of this piece Balochistan government had not released a single penny of the grant which had been demanded for holding the National Games.
“We have not yet received a single penny. But we hope that in a couple of days some part of the grant will be released,” a senior official of the Balochistan Sports Board told TNS.
The official said that the delay in the release of the grant might create problems for the organisers. But at the same time, he voiced optimism that the Games would be held as per schedule.
Organising such an event provides an opportunity to the host province to improve its infrastructure which can be utilised by a federating unit for several years to come.
A hefty amount of Rs800 million has been demanded of the Balochistan government for holding the Games. The organisers had to construct a swimming pool, lay a tartan track and prepare artificial football turf besides establishing other facilities which, if completed, would help the province in the long run.
I have learnt that the athletics track is being laid at the Ayub Stadium but it would not be used for the National Games because it is too late.
The athletics competitions would be held at the Musa Stadium which already has a tartan track and is inside the cantonment area.
The organisers have decided to hold swimming and rowing competitions in Islamabad because of lack of facilities for these events in Quetta.
The swimming slots will be held at the Pakistan Sports Complex, Islamabad, while rowing will be held at the Rawal Lake.
A Balochistan Sports Board official said that the lake in Balochistan had dried up.
Shooting, an organiser said, would be held in Quetta as according to him National Rifle Association of Pakistan (NRAP) has decided to provide equipment for the purpose. He said the PSB would provide them the rest of the equipment. The organisers also plan to import some equipments of martial arts from Iran.
It has been proposed that Bugti Stadium should be utilised for the opening and closing ceremonies.
The preparation for the Independence Day celebrations has delayed the work for National Games. The organisers plan to hold a meeting after August 14 to discuss various issues about the Games. A meeting with the POA is also being planned after August 14.
Any laxity on the part of Balochistan may deprive it of hosting the spectacle. If it is postponed this time, Quetta will not be able to hold it because of the approaching winter season and the coming international commitments. The country has to feature in the Commonwealth Games in Australia and Asian Games in Indonesia in 2018.
Military is ready to play a key role in holding National Games keeping in view the security situation in the province. Army is ready to play the same role that it did in the organisation of the 31st National Games in Peshawar in 2010.
It has been learnt that Balochistan chief minister Nawab Sanaullah Zehri is not taking interest in these Games. A key organiser told TNS that the chief minister has no time for sports. It’s not good. He should know that he could bring peace to the province only through sports. His province is famous for producing leading athletes in boxing and football. It’s time both the civil and military authorities of the province stood united and organised National Games in the most befitting manner.
Meanwhile, the sports commission of POA has decided to hold football, cycling, judo and squash competitions under the banner of the national Olympic committee because of various controversies.
However, it is expected that the differences between POA and Pakistan Judo Federation (PJF) would come to an end as progress has been made in that direction. The PJF has withdrawn cases from both Islamabad High Court and Lahore High Court (LHC) which it had lodged against the POA.