When a 62-member Pakistan contingent embarked upon their journey to Scotland for participation in the Glasgow Commonwealth Games, all and sundry in the country gave their ‘verdict’ that national athletes won’t be able to win a single medal in any discipline. And it did not seem a far-fetched thought, keeping in view the turmoil in which the Pakistan Olympic Movement was and is for the last three years. But Pakistan won four medals - three silver and one bronze - against all odds. Pakistan won medals in wrestling, judo and boxing. Other sports in which Pakistan took part included swimming, table tennis, badminton, shooting, weightlifting, athletics, gymnastics and a debut in lawn bowls, but the results were not that encouraging.
Wrestlers Qamar Abbas and Azhar Hussain won silver and bronze respectively while judoka Shah Hussain Shah and boxer Mohammad Waseem were the silver medallists as Pakistan finished at 23rd place out of 71 nations that took part in the twentieth edition of the event. This little credit, though not that big, undoubtedly, goes to the National Olympic Committee (NOC) of Pakistan, headed by Lt Gen (r) Syed Arif Hasan and his team and the federal government. The hurdles faced by the Pakistan Olympic Association (POA) were numerous, but they overcame them with patience, determination and a strong support from the International Olympic Committee (IOC), the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) and the Inter Provincial Coordination Committee (IPC) Ministry.
For many, the hastily sum up of Pakistan’s performance at the Glasgow Games was ‘below par', without realizing what’s going on with Pakistan sports for the last many years, and who are responsible for damaging sports in the country. The parallel and unlawful POA officials, led by retired Major General Akram Sahi and his cronies, are trying their best to destroy the very fabric of Pakistan sports since February 2012. By filing a frivolous petition before the Lahore High Court just a week before the Games, these very disgruntled elements were confident and smiling that the national squad would not proceed to Scotland to take part in the Games, and even if they succeed, they would fail miserably. But all their nefarious plans and designs were turned topsy-turvy when Pakistan not only reached at the mega event but also won medals.
The build-up to the Games was so chaotic that one should pat POA chief Arif Hasan and his team, IPC Minster Riaz Hussain Pirzada and, above all, the athletes on the back for putting the national flag on the podium four times. Before the Games, the sheer disorganised nature of the athletes’ preparation, coupled with uncertainty regarding their participation, dented any confidence that the Pakistan contingent could have built up through their preparations.
POA Director General Muhammad Khalid Mahmood admitted before Daily Times that the national contingent of 62 athletes in 11 disciplines - who managed to win only four medals and none of them gold - seemed clueless for the better part of the Games. “We were not expecting any miracles, keeping in view the chaos in which the Pakistan Olympic Movement is for the last two and a half years. Our athletes were lacking in preparation and it showed. It’s been a testing time for all. The athletes mainly suffered due to petty politics of the parallel Pakistan Olympic Association. It was unfair on the athletes." Khalid said that the athletes did not get enough training and practice before coming to Glasgow. However, he said that the medals in wrestling, boxing and judo were a source of relief for the entire country.
It is pertinent to mention that Pakistan has competed in 11 of the 19 previous Commonwealth Games since 1954. The country’s most successful stint was the 1962 Commonwealth Games in Perth, where Pakistan finished fourth in the overall rankings, winning eight gold medals and one silver medal. Since then, the country has failed to improve its performance at the Games, with the worst campaign in 1990 when Pakistan was represented in only three disciplines.
They say sport is not just a hobby, but a way of life - it is not just physical exercise, but a test of character and expression. But how athletes really express themselves freely when there is uncertainty over even getting an air ticket to international events and how could they train properly when they didn’t even know about their participation one day before the event. It was very unfortunate that two very strong medal prospect games - hockey and squash - failed to feature in the Glasgow Games, thanks to Akram Sahi and his cronies. What a shame!
The Pakistan Sports Board (PSB) has also admitted that there were no medal hopes to begin with. And the medals won were a bit ‘surprising'. The players alone cannot be blamed for this. Even with the right tools at their disposal, there is still a massive gap between Pakistan and countries like England, Australia or even India, when it comes to basic sports infrastructure. India came home with 64 medals including 15 golds with the women contingent alone winning 27 of those medals, with 5 gold medals. Our neighbours were fifth at the medals table. What a massive difference in the number of medals won by Pakistan and archrivals India!
It will take Pakistan years of hard work, dedication and judicious allocation of resources to come close to their level. At the same time when you have sports personnel with big egos, mischievous mind set to settle personal scores and who do not even care about the country’s participation at major events, let alone the sports infrastructure in the country, then there is not much the players can do either. So, all we can do is sit back, just criticise for sake of criticism without providing any concrete solutions and, above all, enjoy the soap opera going on in the Pakistan Olympic Movement.
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