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August 10, 2020

No athletics track in country good enough for SAG: Sahi


August 10, 2020

KARACHI: Athletics Federation of Pakistan (AFP) president Major General (retd) Akram Sahi on Sunday said that there is no athletics track in the country good enough on which the athletic event of the 14th South Asian Games could be organised which the nation is going to host in 2022.

“Yes there is no athletic track good enough in Pakistan on which athletic event of South Asian Games could be organised,” Sahi told ‘The News’ in a formal chat.

“Two types of tracks are required for holding an international athletic event. One is competition track and the other is warm-up track. Islamabad’s Jinnah Stadium has both these tracks but they are worn out and quite old and are not suitable for event like South Asian Games,” said Sahi, also a former international athlete.

“As we are going to host the next South Asian Games, we need top-class facilities. Managing standard athletics facilities is the most important thing and it is the responsibility of the government to plan for that,” Sahi said.

“Athletics is a flagship event of Olympics and we should give priority to it and manage better facilities for it ahead of the 14th South Asian Games,” said Sahi, also the vice-president of Asian Athletics Association (AAA).

“You know we should not go after Nepal in offering facilities for athletes of South Asian event but our main competition should be with India. Managing better facilities for all sports which would be competed in South Asian Games would boost the image of Pakistan,” Sahi said.

“There should be special planning for that and I think we don’t have much time at our disposal and preparation should be started by the state right now,” said Sahi, also the chairman of the South Asian Athletics Association.

He said once Pakistan manages an athletic facility of international standard then holding an Asian level athletic event would not be difficult.

“I have been repeatedly telling the government that I can get any Asian level athletic event for Pakistan to host but I have not been given any green signal. You know without state support hosting Asian event in Pakistan is not possible. If the government agrees and manages top athletic facilities it will help us hold an Asian event. If the government does this it will add to the feathers of the Prime Minister Imran Khan who himself is a sportsman. Pakistan has never hosted any Asian level athletics event,” Sahi said.

“I guarantee you that we can host a continental event but we need top infrastructure and state patronage,” Sahi stressed.

He also said that he still plans to send Pakistan’s Olympics medal prospect Arshad Nadeem abroad for training to prepare for next year’s Olympics. “My plan is the same for Arshad,” Sahi said. “I will manage a foreign training programme for him once international flights are resumed,” Sahi said.

“As the government has lifted restrictions on non-contact sports activities, we plan to hold a camp for him in Lahore so that he could start preparation,” Sahi said. “He has shown his talent and now it is necessary to send him abroad so that his performance could be further improved,” Sahi said.

Arshad created history when he recorded a 86.29metre throw during the 13th South Asian Game in Nepal to qualify for next year’s Tokyo Olympics. The AFP had planned to send him to Finland from May 1, 2020, for training but it could not be done because of the outbreak of COVID-19 which also eventually forced the IOC to postpone this summer’s Olympics to summer of 2021.

When asked whether AFP would field other athletes in the remaining Olympic qualifiers Sahi replied in the negative. “No one is near that standard and so we don’t plan to field anyone in the remaining Olympic qualifiers,” he said.