ince the inception of the South Asian Games in 1984 in Kathmandu, 12 editions of the biennial spectacle have been conducted in different countries.
India hosted the games in 1987 in Calcutta, in 1995 in Madras and in 2016 in Guwahati and Shillong. Bangladesh hosted the games in Dhaka in 1985, 1993 and 2010.
Nepal also hosted the games in 1999 in Kathmandu. The country is scheduled to host the 13th edition later this year in Kathmandu and Pokhara. Sri Lanka hosted the games in Colombo in 1991 and 2006.
Pakistan conducted the games in Islamabad in 1989 and 2004 and will host the 14th edition to be held in the next two or three years.
Nepal seems to be struggling this time in hosting the eight-nation extravaganza because much of its infrastructure was destroyed in an earthquake a few years ago. It was to hold the 13th edition in March but had to postpone it until September and October this year. Also, the Games are bigger this time due to the induction of some new disciplines.
Since the attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team bus in March 2009 in Lahore, Pakistan has been a no-go area for most of the foreign teams. We as a nation suffered a lot because of the tragedy. However, now the situation has improved a lot and foreign nations have started sending their sports teams to Pakistan. Keeping that in view, hosting South Asian Games in the next two or three years would be of great significance. It would be a great opportunity for Pakistan to show to the world that it is now a safe place. The purpose of my article is to attract the attention of the federal government towards hosting the South Asian Games for which the preparations should be immediately started. The government with the assistance of the Pakistan Olympic Association (POA) should make a comprehensive plan and execute it in time so that all the requisite preparations for the biennial competitions could be completed well in time.
In May last year, then Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi approved Rs500 million for the preparation of the spectacle. But it is not known what happened to that amount.
Hosting such events benefits a nation’s sports in the long run because the infrastructure built for the purpose is then used by the host country players for years to come. Pakistan should start boosting its infrastructure for hosting the South Asian Games. One big issue is that only Islamabad is capable of hosting the South Asian Games because of the presence of Pakistan Sports Complex which has facilities for almost all disciplines. But attracting a large number of spectators to Islamabad is not easy. Lahore is a better option but there the government will have to boost infrastructure.
The PML-N government did a good job in establishing infrastructure in Punjab but that too is not sufficient for holding such a big event.
The sports governing bodies of Pakistan should weigh the option of utilising the newly-constructed Narowal Sports Complex for holding some of the competitions of South Asian Games.
It’s not difficult to hold competitions of various disciplines in various cities if there is proper planning. Even Karachi and Peshawar could be utilised for some disciplines. Hosting the competitions at various cities would be of immense importance, particularly for building confidence of the international community in Pakistan.
It would be of great help if sports journalists from South Asian countries were invited as state guests for covering the Games.
This time the government and the POA should try their best to host the Games in a grand style with full-pledged promotional activities starting a year before the event. It’s time for the government to start preparing infrastructure for the mega event. Pakistan can boost its tourism through the event if properly managed. Tours to the scenic spots of the northern areas, Azad Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan could be organised for the competing teams.
If a sincere effort is made nothing is impossible and the South Asian Games could be arranged in the most befitting way.
In the last few years Pakistan not only hosted some cricketing nations but international events of other sports disciplines were also conducted quite successfully in various cities.
We saw Brazilian football legend Ronaldinho and England’s top professional footballer Ryan Giggs visiting Pakistan. They along with a bunch of other international stars played a couple of small-side matches in Karachi and Lahore.
Last month Brazilian star Kaká and Luis Figo of Portugal visited Pakistan to launch World Soccer Stars 2019, a football event which will see both the stars along with a bunch of other international players play a series of matches in Karachi and Lahore from April 26-29.
The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) has also planned eight Pakistan Super League (PSL) matches this time in Pakistan, five in Karachi and three in Lahore.
West Indies women cricket team’s arrival for a T20 series in Karachi will also be helpful in improving the image of the country.
It’s time for us to build our infrastructure so that major international events could be hosted in future. During the last few years we even failed to maintain our existing infrastructure which now will cost the government heavily.