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A gloomy tale of Pakistan and the Olympics

Amnah Jabeen, a social media influencer talks about the glory days of Pakistani athletes on international platforms like the Olympics. She further talks about factors that resulted in the downfall of Pakistani athletes and gives suggestions on how we can revive the golden times of the Pakistan sports industry.

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 Olympics, the ancient, and the largest gaming festival mark its beginning in 776 BC. The foundation of the sporting festival, initiated by Heracles, the son of Zeus, was laid in ancient Greece. Since then, the sporting event has taken place every four years during the religious festival, to honor the Zeus sanctuary, in Olympia – Southern Greece. “At the Olympic Games, it isn’t the most beautiful or strongest who is crowned, but those who compete,” said Aristotle. The Games had such influence that the internal, four years, a period is known as “Olympiads,” was used to count the time.

Historicizing Olympics 

However, the ancient gaming festival saw a decline after Greece was conquered, which took another 1,500 years for the sporting festival to revive. With 1896, marked as the year of Olympics revival, Baron Pierre de Coubertin introduced the Olympics officially to the world through the foundation of the International Olympics Committee (IOC).

Beginning with the Torch Relay – the symbol of spirit, knowledge and life, initially the Olympics started with only one event, the footrace known as the stade. Besides, only free-born male citizens of Greece were allowed to participate. Later, the modern Olympics along with introducing new games allowed participation of 14 nations that extended to 44, by 1924.

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Soon everyone was eligible for the Olympics when Coubertin designed the first official Olympic symbol in 1913 – the Olympic rings.  These interlocked five rings colored, blue, red, black, green, and yellow on a white background delegate the five continents namely, Europe, America, Africa, Australia and Asia respectively.

In Asia, after being independent of the sub-continent the newly born state of Pakistan marked its first presence in the Olympics in 1948 by sending its five athletes to London. For this reason, Pakistan created the National Olympic Committee (NOC) – The Pakistan Olympic Association (POA) with the mission to observe the country’s active participation in Olympic Games.

The creation of POA was based on the idea of Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah expressed as, “Dedicate yourself to sports promotion, for when you and I are gone, leadership will go into the hands of youth, and youth is our wealth, that must be hammered into shape into burnished steel to strive and smite in defence – the defence of the integrity, solidarity and the ideology of Pakistan.”

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Pakistan in Olympics: golden pages turned black 

The Pakistani nation has always been enthusiastic about sports. Accordingly, the country has produced a number of talented sportsmen that have been the pride of the nation. As regards, from 1948 till 1992, ten medals have been brought to the country, with hockey (men’s field) outnumbering other sports, with eight medals.

Besides, for Pakistan, 1960 has been the most successful Olympics with one, gold in hockey and one bronze in wrestling. However, from 1992 onwards the dark era began for Pakistan in the Olympics. Since then, Pakistan has been unsuccessful in getting a hold of “single” medals in any sports. This hence led to a decline of a country in the sports that has always been the passion of the young generation.

Despite dark clouds, Pakistani athletes once again appeared in Summer Olympics, 2020 held by Tokyo, commenced from July 23, 2021. The Pakistan Olympic Association (POA) has sent a team of 22 members containing ten athletes representing Pakistan at the International sports forum, the Olympics. Sadly, the men’s field hockey team has been missing for the two consecutive sessions of the Olympics due to poor performance. The last time, the Pakistani hockey team made its appearance was in the 2012 Olympics London where it ended at the 7th position.

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Apart from the field hockey team, the athletes that made an appearance include, Arshad Nadeem (javelin throw), Najma Parveen (200 meters race), Mahnoor Shahzad (badminton), Shah Hussain Shah (judo), Gulfam Joseph (10m Air Pistol shooting), Ghulam Mustafa Bashir and Khalil Akhtar (25m Rapid fire Pistol shooting), Bisma Khan (50m freestyle swimming), Mohammad Haseeb Tariq (100m freestyle swimming), and Talha Talib (weightlifting). All these athletes have started displaying their talent at the events with a few already being back empty-handed, making dark clouds over Pakistani sports more visible.

 The downfall of Pakistani athletes in the Olympics 

From being at 14th position in the Olympics games event, Pakistan has fallen to 31st position by 2016 with no exception from 2020 games as well. Mahnoor (badminton), Shah Hussain (judo), Gulfam Joseph (10m air pistol), Mohammad Haseeb Tariq and Bisma Khan (Swimming) could not advance to the next level, unfortunately. In addition, Talha Talib (67kg men weightlifting) has been ranked at 5th position. Considering the aforementioned facts, the mind draws attention towards the causes that led to the setback of Pakistani athlete’s performance.

Firstly – the absence of sporting infrastructure from Hashim to Jansher all sportsmen are more or less self-made, including Talha Talib from today. Secondly – lack of long-term planning, as wisely said, “short-cuts seem tempting but they never lead to success.” Thirdly – lopsided support from the government, since the establishment of POA, no other mega supportive efforts have been made by the government.

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Last but not least – inability to give recognition to the athletes, we have unfortunately always lost the talent by not recognizing them or losing them to the foreign land. We miss them when they are gone, but do not recognize them when they are here with us. The above discussed causes are not the only ones responsible for what is happening with sports and athletes in Pakistan – the nation taking pride in calling itself sports-mad but are definitely some of the core issues that gradually slide Pakistan from the golden to the black days.

Suggestion for reviving the golden era in Pakistan 

The Pakistan Olympics Association (POA) needs to reconsider the message of founding father, Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, “Sports can foster development for developing nations.” Besides, hockey, the national sport of Pakistan, must be reformed. It must be patronized, proper training must be provided, hockey leagues should be initiated in the country, competent officials should be hired, and financial security along with recognition should be provided.

Read more: Sports narrative of Pakistan

Moreover, equal weight-age should be given to all sports. As seen in Talha Talib’s case, he has shown great efforts in the 67kg weight lifting event at Olympics, 2020 and finished at the 5th position. He is a self-made athlete, gain achievements at a very young age under the coaching of his father, Muhammad Islam Natiq.

Hence, concluding that for the revival of the sports industry in Pakistan and for the country to shine at the International sports events, the government along with the sports federation and POA needs to consider the shortcomings and address them effectively and quickly for the additional delay to an already two decade downfall will bring Pakistan to the quagmire.

The author is a social media influencer and works as Digital Insights Specialist in the National Security Division. She can be reached at  amnah.Jabeen94@gmail.com.  The views in the article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.

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