Surrounded by the historic Badshahi Mosque, Ranjit Singh Mausoleum and Lahore Fort, facing the Minar-e-Pakistan, Attique Stadium presents a contrasting picture of neglect. You cannot judge from its present miserable condition that the place was once a glorious venue for national and international sport competitions, chiefly Kabaddi matches.
Over the past more than a decade, the ground of the Stadium has been left one long dry patch with virtually no grass, just a heap of unsettled dust all of which greet its random visitors.
The place is marked by broken fences, chipped stairs, damaged roof and — to top it all — a pool of stinking sewerage water that now routinely collects here.
You cannot also miss stray dogs, push-cart vendors and masseurs occupying different corners of the Stadium.
In its heydays, Attique Stadium would famously hold sports tournaments. It was very popular among the Lahorites, particularly those based in the Walled City.
There would be huge crowds of spectators at the Stadium. The entire place would echo with the sound of drum beats and slogans of cheerleaders. Today, of course, it’s a different story altogether.
Since it’s a low-lying area, the Stadium is usually submerged in rainwater, especially in monsoon. There is no arrangement to drain water — it is left on Mother Nature to evaporate it in time. Till then, the place becomes a breeding ground for many a virus.
TNS asked Tehsil Sports Officer Tanvir Abbas as to why the competitions are not held at the Stadium as before. He said, “In the wake of incidents of terrorism, the Stadium was seen as vulnerable because of its location on the brink of the road.
“It does not have high boundary walls, thus it is exposed to saboteurs,” he explained. “In fact, it was the people who quit showing up at the Stadium for security issues. Hence, the Punjab Sports Board decided to organise competitions of Kabaddi and wrestling at Punjab Stadium and Hockey Stadium instead.”
About the bad situation of the Stadium, Abbas said, “The VIP parking has done enormous damage to the [Stadium] ground. Convoys of dignitaries, ministers and foreign delegates who visit the monuments [other than Attique Stadium] park their vehicles in the ground, destroying whatever is left of the Stadium. No one can stop them from parking,” he declared.
Interestingly, there is a parking lot adjacent to Attique Stadium but this one is used only by the common people visiting Lahore Fort and Badshahi Mosque. “It is not used for the VIP cars, for reasons best known to the authorities,” Abbas said.
However, he added that the Punjab Sports Board had requested the Punjab government to release funds for the renovation of the Stadium.
According to Mr Iftikhar, an elderly teacher of scouts at Government Islamia High School, Misri Shah, “Gone are the days when Attique Stadium used to host hundreds of sports competitions including international Kabadi matches, national wrestling championships, hockey and football matches, races and tug-of-war contests. It’s all part of history now.
“This is a historic stadium. Our [school] teams have played games here. There are barely a few grounds in Lahore whereas the population of the city is growing too fast. I think it may be difficult for the government to develop new sports grounds. Therefore, it would be most suitable if the existing grounds and stadiums are taken care of.”
Iftikhar added that there is no doubt the Punjab CM is promoting games in the province and Punjab Youth Festival is a testimony to his commitment to sports.”
A Fine Arts student at National College of Arts (NCA) seemed to know a lot about the Stadium. “It’s been occupied by vendors, masseurs and drug addicts,” he said. “Families are scared to visit the Stadium. There’s a lot of filth and dirt around the place. Its fences have come off which makes it easy for animals, particularly dogs, to enter the place. No wonder it does not attract any visitors.”
District Officer Sports (DOS) Malik Waqar Hussain has an explanation: “The Punjab government had a plan to renovate Attique Stadium,” he said. “But the project was delayed because the Stadium could come into the expansion project of the Circular Road and the Metro Bus service.”