Letting our athletes down

May 22, 2022

The authorities have failed to provide air-conditioned facilities to sports persons preparing for major international events

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The soaring temperature across the country has badly exposed the sports infrastructure of the state. After a thorough investigation I have learnt that there are no adequate arrangements at the state-owned facilities which could safeguard the athletes from the soaring temperatures.

Athletes of four sports disciplines, taekwondo, judo, karate and handball, are training at the gigantic Pakistan Sports Complex Islamabad to prepare for the forthcoming Commonwealth Games and Islamic Games.

It has been learnt that there is no air-conditioner facility in any training centre, including Liaquat Gymnasium, which is being renovated to prepare for the forthcoming 14th South Asian Games which Pakistan is set to host next year.

Taekwondo fighters are a bit comfortable as they are training at the Liaquat Gymnasium basement while karatekas are training at the upper portion above the main hall of the gymnasium where temperature is always high.

And judokas and handball players also are struggling against the heat.

Because of such a precarious situation some teams have also made some reshuffling in their training sessions and are training early in the morning and late in the evening. "It's a very bad situation," an insider told me.

According to insiders, Allama Iqbal Hostel of the Pakistan Sports Complex is being renovated and that is why male athletes are staying at the Jinnah Hostel where eight players each have been put in a single room with no air-conditioners. Athletes are unable to have a sound sleep because of hot weather and mosquitoes.

Fatima Jinnah Hostel, in which female athletes are staying, also faces the same situation.

The volleyball under-20 team, which initially was training at the Pakistan Sports Complex, has now been shifted to air-conditioned POF Wah facility. The PVF has also set up its senior team's camp there.

Meanwhile, at the PSB Coaching Centre Lahore, camps of athletics and wrestling are in operation. The wrestlers faced a few bad days as there was no air-conditioner at the training zone and hostel. However, it's Director Nasrullah Rana has taken an initiative and has installed a few ACs at the hostel. Nasrullah also told me that he was going to install a couple of air-conditioners at the wrestling training hall. But we need a proper cooling system in training halls across the country, especially those owned by the state. They should be well-maintained so that we do not face similar situation at a time when we are preparing for major international assignments to be held later this summer.

Some federations are trying to contact various sources in the northern areas in order to get some training space and shift their camps for a couple of months.

In Gilgit weather is fine these days but there are no quality training facilities there.

A sports officer from Gilgit Baltistan told me that the government plans to establish a multi-purpose gymnasium and a hostel which will help host training camps there in future.

This is really a depressing situation and I know that the players are not happy. They cannot focus on their training because of such hot weather.

How can athletes train properly if they don't get a sound sleep because of hot weather and mosquitoes? In Narowal, a huge sports facility was established in the previous tenure of the PML (N) but what is its utility?

Installing temporary air-conditioners here and there will not work. How can you create a desirable practice environment in hot weather with just two air-conditioners in a training facility? It's a joke. Pakistan's government should work on this issue. It should fully equip all training facilities across the country with a comprehensive cooling system.

Why is the state not working on establishing a huge sports complex in Abbottabad where weather in summer is ideal for quality training?

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government has established some sports facilities there but they are not enough for national training demand in several sports at the same time.

In Malam Jabba, Kalam and Gilgit Baltistan also we can construct gymnasiums which could be utilised when summer is at its peak.

A senior Pakistan Sports Board (PSB) official the other day confessed during an interaction with me that there is no proper cooling system in any of the Board's facilities across the country. Let's bury the past and take an initiative to establish infrastructure in such areas which could suit and benefit the athletes in true sense.

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