The 13th South Asian Games (SAG) is just a few days away. But Kathmandu is still scrambling to ready the needed infrastructure for the South Asian sports festival. Dasarath Stadium, our only international stadium, is undergoing last-minute upgrades. Satdobato is still working on readying the swimming pool for the upcoming competition. Likewise, sporting venues in Pokhara and Birgunj are also undergoing last-minute construction works. Nepal initially promised to host the games in March 2019, and after postponing it twice, we are welcoming athletes from seven South Asian countries. Repeated delays and construction hiccups made the hosting of the games uncertain until a few months back. Sports minister Jagat Bahadur Biswokarma was seen hanging around Dasarath Stadium, overseeing its construction works. While it is good to see our minister on the ground, the fact that he had to personally be there to ensure that the stipulated work is completed on time signals abysmal failure of our system and the lack of proper planning.
Prime Minister K P Sharma Oli and his ministers make certain promises to the public but those are rarely backed up by solid planning and execution. When the system does not follow up publicly announced plans, people will start taking words of those in power as nothing but words. The Chinese government is supporting the rebuilding of Dasarath Stadium which was badly damaged during the 2015 earthquakes. It took us more than four years and foreign support to rebuild the country’s only international stadium. We never took the initiative to upgrade and update our vital sporting infrastructure. We only hurry to somehow manage venues for competitions and then things go back to normal. Our politics and those involved in taking forward sporting activities are almost always mired in political and other fights. This is what needs to be corrected if we are to ensure that our vital infrastructures are completed on time.
While it’s too late to actually do anything for the 13th SAG, the lessons from the preparation must not be lost. We need advance planning, dedication and resources to prepare our athletes for regional and other sporting events. Our players’ performance in many of the sports that we used to dominate in South Asia has been on the decline. Karate is a good case in point. Once dubbed powerhouse of South Asia, India and other countries have come a long way to even dominate the game in the region. Sports unite communities and nations. People come together to celebrate achievements of players and with it the national bond becomes stronger. This has happened in Nepal several occasions in the past, giving the message of solidarity and national unity. We wish our players the very best for the 13th SAG, and we are all with them. But we must and can do more to ensure that our players can compete at the global level in the years to come.