Dasharath Stadium is where Nepal has held vital regional sports events in the past—such as the 2012 AFC Challenge Cup and 2013 SAFF Championship. And it is here Nepal will have to host inaugural and closing ceremonies of the 13th South Asian Games (SAG) in December. But as the date of this mega sporting event is nearing (we are only three months away) doubts remain as to whether the stadium will be ready for it within these three months. The officials of National Sports Council (NSC) have already postponed the games for three times due to lack of completion of stadium rebuilding following devastating earthquakes of 2015 which destroyed this sporting infrastructure four years ago. And our failure to complete the rebuilding process has already cost us dearly. Nepal had to shift away the home games of the 2022 World Cup Qualifiers against Kuwait and Taiwan, scheduled for September 5 and 10, because of delay in the reconstruction. The 13th SAG itself was originally scheduled for February-March 2018. But to no avail. Nepal sought more time to ready the infrastructure. Then the meeting of South Asian Olympic Council held in December, 2017 approved new dates: March 9-18, 2019. Later, NSC postponed the Games to September. Nepal failed to meet this deadline too. Nepal must not resort to postponing the games citing the infrastructure issue. All resources should be directed toward completing the remaining works of rebuilding.
Although the NSC has expressed commitment to complete the stadium on time, national and international sporting bodies are still concerned about Nepal’s ability to host the Games largely because of lack of fast pace in rebuilding. It is clear what will happen if the rebuilding work is not fast-tracked: Nepal won’t be able to host the event scheduled for December 1 to 10. And one good opportunity to showcase Nepal’s sporting prowess will be missed. NSC officials have expressed the commitment to make the stadium ready by mid-November “no matter what.” This spirit should be maintained. Lack of timely release of the budget has been cited as one reason for slow progress in reconstruction. If that is the case, Finance Ministry should ease the process of allocation and release of the money for the purpose and supplies of the construction materials needed for reconstruction should also be made smooth.
By all means, holding SAG will benefit the country in more ways than one. For one, we will be hosting thousands of athletes from seven South Asian countries. And the message they take back home about will be crucial in promoting our tourism. Nepal’s sports sector, particularly cricket, is thriving despite all odds. Nepali cricket stars have earned name and fame for the country through their brilliant performances in national and international games. Making Dashrath stadium up and functioning will go a long way in training Nepal’s footballers and holding various other national sports. The government needs to remove all the hurdles in remaining reconstruction works of the stadium. If the SAG is deferred simply for our inability to complete the stadium, it will be a huge setback for Nepal. The clock is ticking for December.