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Some hope at last

Will the government take a positive stance when its representative presents its position before the International Olympic Committee (IOC)?

Some hope at last

After a long tussle within the sports fraternity, people are now expecting that the government will take a positive stance when its representative presents its position before the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in a meeting expected to be held in Lausanne, probably next month. The IOC had given May 21 as the proposed date for the meeting, but the ministry of Inter-Provincial Coordination (IPC) requested it to give it some more time as it had to make necessary preparations.

The IPC has decided to send its secretary Ijaz Chaudhry to Lausanne and it is highly expected that he will present the government’s case in a way which will not only avert the threat of an IOC ban but will also pave the way for successful resolution of the conflict back home in accordance with the Olympic charter.

The government is seriously thinking whether to do away with the entire sports policy 2005, or to amend it or re-draft it in a way which may fulfill the demands of the Olympic charter.

The current sports policy was notified by the federal government vide SRO No 1249 (1) 2005, dated 5-12-2005 (the Sports Policy).

The para 10 (5) and 11 of the sports policy and a couple of other controversial clauses have created a big controversy.

Some experts say that the sports policy is not comprehensive and is rather outdated and should be revised.

In the meeting with the IOC, the government is also expected to seek input from the world body whether it can apply its policy to the National Olympic Committee (NOC). If such a discussion happens the government may face a rebuttal from the IOC on the ground that the world body never allows governments’ interference in the affairs of NOCs.

As far as the tenure-restriction clause is concerned, with the exception of two or three federations all have amended their constitutions according to the national sports policy voluntarily and the IOC is not likely to make any objection to that.

It will not be an easy task for the government to backtrack now that it has gone this far. But it will have to show elasticity if it wants to safeguard the future of its athletes.

The IOC gave the last warning to Pakistan when it took up the issue in its Executive Board meeting in Ankara, saying if Pakistan’s government failed to adopt the already agreed roadmap for resolving the matter, its NOC would be suspended in the next Executive Board meeting in July.

It seems the last chance to choose from among the options available with the government.

Suspension would mean that the NOC would stop receiving IOC funds and its officials would be banned from attending Olympic meetings and events.

Pakistani athletes would be barred from competing in Olympic events under their national flag, but they would be eligible to participate under the IOC banner.

In the last one month, the government has shown a softer stance as it allowed federations to send their entries for the Asian Games through Arif Hasan-led Pakistan Olympic Association (POA). Hockey is one of the examples. In the Asian Games to be held in Incheon in South Korea from September 19 to October 4, Pakistan is expected to appear in 25 disciplines. Entries of a handful of disciplines have also been sent by Arif Hasan-led POA for the Commonwealth Games starting in Glasgow from July 23.

But the participation of the country’s athletes in these twin spectacles will depend on the concrete step which the government will take for resolving the conflict.

The Pakistan Sports Board (PSB) is playing a dubious role in the whole episode. It seems that the new Director General Akhtar Nawaz Ganjera is in deep trouble.

After signs of some improvement in the stance of the IPC ministry over the whole issue, the other day a fire was shot by the Senate when it asked the government, through a resolution, to uphold the national sports policy.

The never-ending power struggle has destroyed the careers of the national athletes as for the last couple of years they have not been able to participate in international competitions.

A prolific athlete the other day told me that two years ago he was in top form and was expecting to grab maximum medals at international level but the long-drawn sports conflict shattered all his hopes as he neither got the opportunity of quality training nor participated in many international events.

He said that his career now seemed to face a pre-mature end as he would not be able to regain that form and fitness.

This is not the story of a single athlete. Quite a few such athletes have suffered because of the sports bodies’ fight.

Some people hold responsible only Lt Gen (retd) Arif Hasan and Major Gen (retd) Akram Sahi for the whole mess. But in reality, there are several mysterious hands which are busy in fanning the flames in order to attain their ulterior motives. They must know who they are. They are very much in their own ranks and are very close to them.

The IOC member in Pakistan Syed Shahid Ali has so far been unable to play his role in the whole episode. Like in the past he will also be part of the meeting with the IOC. This time he should give his strong input as his card could play a decisive role.

Now, let’s come to the budget which will be announced next month. Normally sports is given little weightage in Pakistan and in the national budget too it is not given much time. Hardly a sentence or two is spoken about it and a small amount is allocated for it which does not fulfill the requirements of our sports structure.

The government should make a substantial increase in its sports budget in the next financial year and it would be of immense importance if the budget of the federations was increased manifold.

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