Race against time to host 13th edition of SAG
By Anjan Khadka
Kathmandu, Aug 11: Nepal is racing against time to complete all preparations for hosting the 13th edition of South Asian Games (SAG) slated December 1-10 in Kathmandu and Pokhara.
After a hiatus of 20 years, Nepal will play the host of the multidisciplinary regional sports fiesta. Nepal had hosted the maiden edition in 1984 and organised the 8th version in 1999 in Kathmandu.
This is the third time that SAG has come to Nepal but delay in the construction and renovation of the sports infrastructure forced the Nepali side to postpone the event twice.
Though National Sports Council (NSC) says all venues will be ready in time, they will nonetheless be facing an uphill task in preparing the main stadium, Dashrath Stadium, Pokhara Stadium and the swimming pool, to be equipped with modern heating system in Satdobato, Lalitpur, will test the calibre of the Nepali sports authority, NSC.
With just four months remaining, the main Dashrath Stadium which will host the opening and closing ceremony of the 13th SAG, is still under reconstruction.
The reconstruction of Nepal’s only international standard covered hall in the Dashrath Stadium premises will be completed one month before the event, sources at the National Sports Council said. The covered hall was fully destroyed by 2015 earthquake.
Despite the delay, NSC Member Secretary Ramesh Kumar Silwal exuded confidence that all reconstruction works would complete by 1st of November.
According to Silwal, NSC had already ordered the roof to be installed on the VIP parapet while other parts of the stadium have almost finished. “The Sound system, score board, synthetic track and light of the Dashrath Stadium are already installed but their operation is yet to be tested,” Member Secretary Silwal said.
“The condition of the ground at the Dasharath Stadium has also been maintained well and the Chinese team had already installed the synthetic track. The stadium will be handed over to us after the Chinese team finishes its works.”
Apart from confronting challenges in completing sports venues before the event kicks off, the host will be under pressure to emulate the success it had achieved during the 8th edition, when they finished at the second position in the then medal tally with 32 gold medals.
It is said that the Nepali management in 1999 had put the national team for preparation for a year before for the 8th SAG. But this time, Nepali squad has begun its training just six months before the event, which may affect the results adversely for the host, said a sports analyst.
According to the National Team Preparation Director Mahendra Rai, out of 27 sports disciplines to be played in the 13th SAG, players of 26 disciplines have already been put into the closed camp training. The close camp training is being organised in Kathmandu, Lalitpur, Hetauda, Dharan, Bardiya and Pokhara. NSC initiated the close camp from July 17.
The medal winners of the 8th National Games recently held in State No. 5 are called for the national team’s close-camp where around 1500 athletes are taking part in the close-camp. A total of 646 athletes including 332 men and 314 women will be representing Nepal at regional mega sporting event, Rai informed.
“The close-camp of the 26 games is going on very smoothly in the different parts of the nation, as the director of national team preparation I am closely observing the close-
camp venues. Moreover, National Sports Council (NSC) member secretary, Ramesh Kumar Silwal is also individually visiting the most of the close-camp spot,” Rai said.
“The close-camp of the cricket is yet to start due to their participation in the recently held Asian Qualifiers for Australia World Cup, now they had started their physical training and shortly they will start their training for the SAG,” Rai added.
The close camp training of archery, handball and paragliding is taking place in Pokhara while the close camp of the Kusti is going on in Hetauda and the training of the basketball is being held in Dharan. Similarly, the training of other 21 sports disciplines are being held in the different venues of the capital.
The players of national swimming team and archery are preparing for the SAG in Japan. They travelled to Japan last week.
The seven nations from South Asia- host Nepal, Bhutan, India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Maldives will take part in the biggest regional sporting event. Earlier, a total of eight nations had participated in the event including Afghanistan. After Afghanistan had moved to the Central Asian region, only seven teams will compete in the 13th edition.
A total of 27 sports disciplines will be held in the 13th SAG. This is the highest number of sporting events in the SAG. The last edition of the SAG, held in India in 2016, had featured 23 sports disciplines.
Nepal has included four more disciplines as per its rights as the host nation. Nepal added Asian Games silver medal winning paragliding, golf, fencing and wrestling in the 13th SAG.
The national sports governing body, National Sports Council (NSC), has recently confirmed the venues for the 27 disciplines. NSC had started giving a facelift to the proposed venues in the Kathmandu and Pokhara.
A total of seven sports events will be held in the beautiful city Pokhara including women’s football championship while karate and boxing will play at newly built karate building.
Similarly, taekwondo and wrestling will be held at the newly build taekwondo’s building in Satdobato, Lalitpur while shooting, swimming, squash and tennis will be played at Sports Complex in Satdobato. Nepal’s main venue Dashrath Stadium will host men’s football and maximum categories of athletics track and field events. Cycling will be held at Martyr’s Park in Jagdol, Kathmandu.
The NSC covered-hall, Tripureshwor will host basketball and badminton events while table-tennis will be held at Lainchaur, Kathmandu and Mulpani Stadium and T.U International Cricket Ground, Kathmandu will host women’s and men’s cricket respectively.
Meanwhile, kho-kho and kabaddi will be played at the Exhibition Hall, Kathmandu while Gokarna Forest Resort will host golf event and Tribhuvan Army Sports Training Centre, Lagankhel, Lalitpur will host wushu. The venue for fencing is yet to be confirmed. NSC is looking for the under construction Nepal Police Academy hall as the possible venue for the Fencing.
The tourist town of Pokhara will be hosting seven games. Nepal’s national game volleyball, handball and archery will be held at the Pokhara Stadium’s covered-hall. Pokhara City Hall will host weightlifting while Triathlon will be held at Fewa Lake and paragliding will be held at Sarangkot, Pokhara.