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January 11, 2021

High-level meeting to decide fate of SA Games today

Sports

January 11, 2021

ISLAMABAD: The fate of the 14th South Asian Games, originally to be hosted by Pakistan in 2021 but was postponed for a year due to Covid-19, will be decided at a high-level meeting to be chaired by Prime Minister Imran Khan here today (Monday).

A well-placed source in the Ministry for Inter-Provincial Coordination (IPC) has told ‘The News’ that Prime Minister Imran Khan, depending on his availability, will be chairing the high-profile meeting that is expected to be held in the afternoon and all the stakeholders have been invited for suggestions and consultations before giving a go-ahead to the preparation of the Games.

Pakistan has previously hosted the Games in 1989 and again in 2004. This is the third time that the Games hosting rights have been awarded to the country.

The 14th edition of the Games, allotted to Pakistan in 2019, was scheduled to be held in April 2021 but due to Covid-19 pandemic, all the major international events including 2020 Tokyo Olympics were put off for a year. Though no official announcement had come from any quarters so far, it is believed the Games has also been postponed for a year — meaning these are now to be held in the first half of 2022.

The government has already earmarked around Rs3.6 billion for the upgradation of sports infrastructure in Islamabad and Peshawar for the preparation of the Games.

The high-level meeting will be participated by all the stakeholders including Pakistan Olympic Association (POA), Ministry for IPC, Pakistan Sports Board (PSB) top officials and representatives of the Army Sports Board.

When Pakistan hosted the regional event on two previous occasions, the Games secretariat started working almost two years prior to the final dates. This fall there has been no progress so far. The federal government is yet to send a letter of intent to the SA Olympic Committee — which is considered as a prerequisite before organising such event.

The POA in consultation with the government has yet to finalise the dates and more importantly venues for the 14th edition. While the POA is adamant to hold the Games in three major cities of Punjab as well as Peshawar, the ministry for IPC looks more interested to confine the event to Islamabad and Peshawar only and that was why infrastructure budget has been confined to the two cities. Then come the disciplines to be contested during the main regional sports extravaganza and preparation of the athletes for the forthcoming show.

“The meeting has a one-point agenda and that is to decide on the major issues regarding the Games that has been allotted to Pakistan after almost two decades,” a ministry official said.

The official also confirmed that venue, dates, and government’s resolve to support the extravaganza are the major issues. Sri Lanka has already shown interest in hosting the Games if Pakistan fails in its bid. In that case, it would be unlikely that the country goes on to host these Games in near future but that will be the worst scenario.