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November 10, 2019

Top athletes set to battle as National Games begin today


November 10, 2019

PESHAWAR: Following postponements for the last several years due to former hosts Balochistan’s failure to prepare, finally, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is set to host the 33rd National Games which will explode into action at the Qayyum Sports Complex here on Sunday (today).

The country’s premier showpiece, that was first held in 1948, will be formally opened at the heavily guarded Qayyum Sports Complex in the KP capital, which has superb infrastructure developed over the years.

KP Chief Minister Mehmood Khan will inaugurate the Games. Prime Minister Imran Khan could not get time to open the Games because of his committment elsewhere.

“Imran Khan was expected to open the spectacle but due to his commitment elsewhere KP Chief Minister will open the spectacle,” KP Senior Minister Atif Khan told reporters here at Qayyum Sports Complex on Saturday.

However, he said that president of Pakistan Dr Arif Alvi will be the chief guest at the closing ceremony to be held on November 16.

The Games, earlier, were slated to be held at KP from October 26 to November 1 but were rescheduled for November 9 to 15 due to Islamabad’s Dharna. And afterwards the spectacle was further delayed for one day because of the Kartarpur opening.

As many as 6875 athletes and officials and 247 contingent officials will be part of the week-long extravaganza, according to an official document provided to this correspondent by the chief organiser of the competitions.

The players’ strength is 5000, according to the document. The services of 996 technical officials have been taken to conduct the competitions. Men will compete in 32 disciplines, while women will feature in 26 disciplines. The strength of the men’s events is 211, while women’s events are 138. A hard fight is expected among the country’s leading athletes for 854 gold medals, 854 silver medals and 1050 bronze medals.

As many as 14 units including the so far invincible Army, WAPDA, Higher Education Commission (HEC), Pakistan Air Force (PAF), Navy, KP, Punjab, Sindh, Balochistan, Islamabad, Police, Railways, Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) and Gilgit Baltistan will be fighting for medals.

The country’s sports powerhouses Army and WAPDA have the biggest contingents of 925 members each, which include players and officials. KP consists of 750 athletes and officials and 15 contingent officials.

The strength of the other units is: HEC (700 players and officials, 25 contingent officials), Sindh (450 players and officials plus 15 contingent officials), Punjab (450 plus 15), Balochistan (450 plus 15), PAF (400 plus 25), Navy (400 plus 25), Police (500 plus 25), Railways (500 plus 25), Islamabad (175 plus 6), Gilgit Baltistan (150 plus 6) and AJK (150 plus 6).

Besides various venues of Peshawar, some of the competitions will be also be held at other venues both inside and outside KP.

Abbottabad is hosting gymnastics, judo, rugby, taekwondo and weightlifting, Mardan is set to host bodybuilding and handball, badminton will be held in Charsadda, rowing and swimming in Islamabad, while shooting is being held in Jehlum. Karachi has also hosted the sailing event which concluded on Saturday. Till filing of this story, a jury was negotiating on results of one class and its final outcome was pending.

The competitions in e-sports and throwball will be held as demonstration sports at the respective Qayyum Sports Complex and Jamrud Stadium, a venue of the former Khyber Agency.

Pakistan’s all major athletes will be part of the competitions being held for the seventh time in KP. KP had hosted National Games before this event in 1958, 1974, 1982, 1990, 1998, and 2010.

All major players of the country are set to compete in the competitions. Among them are the country’s premier wrestler Mohammad Inam, weightlifters Talha Talib and Nooh Dastgir Butt, javelin thrower Arshad Nadeem, karatekas Saadi Abbas and Nargis Hameedullah, taekwondo fighter Haroon Khan and Olympian judoka Shah Hussain — who will compete in Abbottabad.

“Shah has already left for Pakistan and he will surely lift gold,” Shah’s father Hussain Shah told ‘The News’ from Tokyo.

On Saturday evening, dress rehearsal of the participating units was held at Qayyum Sports Complex, the main venue which will also host athletics. The athletics track has been properly repaired and some of the athletes have found it quite well.

“It’s not that bad,” a seasoned Pakistan’s international athlete told ‘The News’, while doing practice for his event.

The real battle for supremacy in the spectacle will be between Army and WAPDA. A senior official of WAPDA was confident that his athletes will extend solid performance in the extravaganza.

“We have imparted quality training to our players besides giving them quality diet. We have met all the needs of the players and hopefully the performance would be encouraging,” WAPDA assistant director sports Azhar Iqbal told this correspondent.

“We held proper two-month training camp specifically for National Games,” Azhar said.

WAPDA sprint coach Rana Sajjad told ‘The News’ that their two top female athletes Sahib-e-Asra and Olympian Najma Parveen are expected to set National Games records in their events of 200m and 400m.

In 2012, the 32nd edition of National Games were held in Lahore. In 2013, the then parallel Pakistan Olympic Association (POA) held National Games in Islamabad with the support of Pakistan Sports Board (PSB) but that edition is not counted in history of the Games.

Quetta had been allotted the 33rd edition but despite several postponements over the years, Balochistan could not prepare itself for hosting the Games. A few months ago the POA decided to shift the Games to KP. However, Balochistan was told that it could hold the 34th edition once it was able to prepare for the slots.

Thick security arrangements have been made for the spectacle with heavy contingents of Army and Police guarding Qayyum Sports Complex. No one is allowed to enter red zone without accreditation cards. The route, right from Saddar to Swati Gate has been closed for traffic and people are to walk on foot for several kilometres to reach their destinations.