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Will Pakistan Host South Asian Games?

Pakistan is scheduled to host the 14th South Asian Games in March next year but could be forced to give up the hosting rights most likely to Bangladesh over lack of preparations.

Well-informed sources told The News on Friday that Pakistan’s sports authorities continue to show a lack of seriousness in preparing for the South Asian Games which was originally scheduled to be held in 2023.

Though Sri Lanka is seen as a back-up venue for the Games, the economic situation there could force the South Asian Olympic Committee (SAOC) to award the hosting right to Bangladesh. According to the sources, Bangladesh has already expressed its keenness to host the event and has informed SOAC that it was fully prepared to successfully stage the regional spectacle even on a short notice.

Pakistan were awarded the hosting rights to the 14th South Asian Games at the previous edition of the event held in Nepal from December 1-10, 2019. At that time, the news generated excitement in the country’s sports circles. Pakistan last hosted the South Asian Games back in 2004 after having staged them for the first time in 1989.

However, bureaucratic red-tape together with lack of sufficient funds and poor coordination between the various sports bodies have dogged the project since day one. Things have only worsened following political uncertainty and economic upheavals in the country.

Initially there were differences between the government officials at the IPC Ministry, Pakistan Sports Board (PSB) and the Pakistan Olympic Association (POA) even on the venues for the Games. PSB and the IPC Ministry were in favour of Islamabad as a single venue just like it was back in 1989 and 2004.

The POA wanted to host the Games in various cities of Punjab with capital Lahore at the centre. Later it was mutually agreed to stage the Games primarily in Lahore along with Islamabad, Faisalabad and Sialkot.While a decision on the venues was taken, other matters remain unresolved.Due to a year-long delay in hosting the event and the depreciation of the Pakistani rupee, the costs have apparently doubled from the initial estimates. The government had allocated funds for the Games but a big part of that money has already been spent apparently on infra-structure. However, according to sources most of the venues are far from ready to host the 27 or so disciplines which will be part of the 13-day extravaganza.Concerned over this sorry state of affairs, top POA officials, according to sources, have sent a series of reminders to the PSB but to no avail.

“If this lack of interest persists then Pakistan could soon be asked to give up the hosting rights to the South Asian Games,” a source told ‘The News’.Such a development would be a big setback for Pakistan sports, already going through a lean patch.At the 2019 event, Pakistan finished a disappointing fourth behind India, hosts Nepal and Sri Lanka with a total of 128 medals including 30 gold, 41 silver and 57 bronze.

With a home advantage, Pakistan could land a much bigger tally like it did in the two Games held in its own backyard.That’s not the only reason why Pakistan should make sure that it doesn’t have to give up the hosting rights. Once strapped of the rights, Pakistan would be highly unlikely to host the event any time in the near future.

Though prospects look grim, a senior sports official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told ‘The News’ that there is still some time for the authorities to put things on track.

“SOAC has so far been very patient with us and can give us more time provided there is some progress,” he said.However, progress seems to be tough to achieve especially with a caretaker government at helm and an uncertainty surrounding the next elections.

Source: GeoSuper