Monday, July 8, 2013


Fit for a Hollywood Comedy

Real life is often stranger than fiction. You just can’t make this stuff up. This is about the 32nd Pakistan National Games recently held from June 28 – July 4 this year. It is supposed to be held every two years, is comprised of a multitude of sports (including squash – which we will get to later on), and is organized by the Pakistan Olympic Committee (POA), the hosting province, and the Pakistan Sports Board (PSB). The always reliable, never deniable Wikipedia lists that since 1998, the games have been held every three years, and since 1956, the Pakistan Army has ended up on top of the medal count.

A 2013 logo from the Games

A 2012 logo
from the Games

I will try to explain this as clearly as possible… Evidently, the 32nd Pakistan Games had already been held: in December of 2012, but for some reason they were held again in June-July 2013. The organization committees for the 2013 version involved the PSB and an unrecognized interim committee of the POA - and both were actually warned not to use the title “32nd National Games” by a justice of the high court and from the International Olympic Committee (IOC), but they chose to ignore all warnings and go ahead anyway. It seems that three POA affiliated units (or teams) did not take part in the 2012 games, so somewhere along the line it was decided to run the thing again. One of the missing teams was the Pakistan Army. Even more strangely, the PSB issued 1.3m dollars to run the new Games, where it only issued about $200,000 for the original one. The PSB director that issued the enormous grant also was a part of the new Games organization committee. Does anyone else smell a rat? On June 29, the day the Games started, the POA was finally forced to change the name of the Games to “National Games 2013”. The event finished on July 4th.

So, a whole lot of money was spent on a sporting event that was conjured up last minute and in reality was done to appease the 3 original missing entrants. It would be like running your own club championships after the fact because you failed to turn up to the real one. The absurdities don’t stop there. From reading articles about this “mock” event, the organization of the ‘new’ Games was so incompetent it was bizarre. I was shaking my head so much, I have whip lash. If even half of what is listed below is true, it is ripe for a Hollywood (or Bollywood?) movie:

  • The majority of the events on day one of the Games could not take place because the organizers failed to pay the respective federations for the use of their facilities.
  • There was no drinking water for the athletes. Temperatures at the Games were 100 degrees +.
  • Organizers chose venues that were very far apart from one another and it was extremely difficult for journalists to gather information and results from events.
  • The bathrooms were filthy. Which, in the excessive heat, must have smelled rather peachy.
  • Organizers were often MIA. They were not reachable even by cell phone. There was nobody to guide the athletes and the guests, and a schedule of events was missing.
  • The Pakistan Squash Federation demanded $5000 from the organizers for the use of their facilities, but was only promised half of that. Consequently, they turned off the air conditioning for the event. Temperatures outside the venue reached 116 degrees. Reportedly, many players were almost passing out even before their matches started.
  • The Pakistan Army won the medal count of the ‘new’ Games with 115 gold medals. The second placed team had 39.
  • Three teams did not participate in the ‘new’ Games.
  • Since the interim committee of the POA is unrecognized, the IOC warned them not to use or display Olympic properties (e.g. the Olympic rings). It was ignored. The IOC is now threatening to ban Pakistan from the Olympics.
  • Athletes were promised a daily allowance of 10 dollars a day for 12 days to cover things like meals. Not only were they underpaid, they only received 9 days of allowance – totaling $45.
  • Organizers were seen showering themselves and friends in opulence with luxury transport vehicles and extravagant meals.
  • The organization committee was too busy praising themselves for a job well done rather than fixing all the complaints and issues. Nice.
  • Security was very lax. There was hardly any checking on any of the spectators entering the venue. Luckily there were no major incidents.

The list goes on. One wonders how anything can reach this level of ridiculousness. Which brings me to the squash event and actually the reason I found out about these Games in the first place. An article caught me eye titled “Players Reportedly Attack Ref…” so I immediately clicked into it. It describes an incident that occurred during the Games in the semi-final of the squash tournament. One of the players, Mansoor Zaman, was so incensed by a decision of the referee, he couldn’t help but verbally abuse the poor fellow. The referee then warned him which had zero affect – the abuse continued – and was left with no alternative but to award the game to his opponent. On leaving the court, the abuse still continued. The referee then did the right thing – he awarded a conduct match against Zaman.

Then it got interesting. Along with his brother, Zaman attempted to do what every other normal person would do under these circumstances: beat up the ref. I mean, why wouldn’t you? Makes perfect sense, right? Saving the day, in steps the Zaman brothers’ father and the head-tournament-referee to calm the situation, and rescue the ref from a certain trip to the hospital.

But that wasn’t the end of it either. Zaman’s father then somehow convinced the head-tournament-referee that the conduct match be nullified and they should start over. From scratch. I would have loved to be a fly on the wall for that conversation, justifying the reason for a redo. So they played again and Zaman ended up winning. Are you kidding me??? You just can’t make this stuff up.

Maybe this should be an episode on “Ripley’s Believe it or Not”. It is painfully obvious that Pakistan Sport has a myriad of issues to deal with. Ineptitude across the board and up and down all associations and committees involved seems to be a good place to start. Who knows if it is at all fixable.

Squash is just another victim of the Pakistan Sports World. It is also a politically unsafe country for foreigners and because of that, the Professional Squash Association (PSA) has banned its (non-Pakistan) players from playing there. Until recently, the PSA have allowed Pakistan to host world ranking squash events anyway, but only up to $10,000 in prize money – and a short time ago that was increased to $25,000. The ban, however, is still in place. So should a country be allowed to host events of reasonably large prize money and world ranking points, but only allow locals to enter? If Pakistan hosts enough of them, a handful of Pakistan players would be able to climb the world rankings without having to play any foreigners. Would this not skew the rankings and is this fair to everyone else?

In completely unrelated news, Pakistan has been awarded the rights to host 2015 Squash World Cup.
…say what?

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