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Rio Olympics and the dismal state of Sports in Pakistan

The Olympics are considered to be a mega sports event where players from all over the world take part. This year, the 2016 Summer Olympics, commonly known as Rio 2016, was held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, from 5th August to 21st August where more than 11,000 athletes from 207 National Olympic Committees took part.

However, what is astounding is that Pakistan, a country having a population of 200 million, participated in the Rio Olympics with a total of just 7 athletes – the country’s smallest ever contingent at the Games. It is highly embarrassing that for the first time in the nation’s sporting history not a single Pakistani athlete qualified to participate in the Olympics. The 7 athletes that did manage to make it to the Olympics did so through wildcard invitations or quota spots.

Pakistan – a sports-loving nation prided itself in producing extraordinary athletes, especially in the games of Hockey and Squash. The country’s hockey team, which won various Olympic medals in the 1980s and 1990s, has not performed well for some time. This time it couldn’t even qualify for the Rio Olympics. Equally disappointing is the state of squash in Pakistan. Once a hugely successful sport in our homeland, which produced legendary players like Jahangir Khan and Jansher Khan, there isn’t a single player now who can reach the same heights.

The reasons for the disappointing condition of sports in Pakistan are pretty obvious. First of all, the country’s gyms and playing grounds are in a dilapidated condition due to the absence of proper sporting equipment. Secondly, Pakistani athletes are following obsolete training methods that gives them a distinct disadvantage in international sports. Thirdly, Pakistan’s sports budget is the lowest in South Asia – less than that of Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and even Afghanistan. 
However the problems don’t end here. For instance, for female athletes, the conditions are even worse. They are not allowed to train outdoors, and familial support is nearly non-existent. Although, these long-existing prejudices are decreasing, many female athletes still have to face the pressure and wrath from the deeply conservative community around them.

Not a single Pakistani athlete managed to qualify for the Rio Olympics and this should serve as a wake-up call for the government and our country’s sporting authorities. We should start preparing for the 2020 Olympics at the earliest, to inculcate a spirit of healthy competition and teamwork in our athletes and to earn respect in the international community. It is high time that the nation’s glory in sports is revived. As a parting note, I would just like to leave this short address here by our Quaid at the Opening ceremony of the Pakistan Olympic Games at Karachi on 22 April, 1948.

“To the athletes and youth of the nation, I bid welcome. My message to you is: Build up physical strength not for aggression, not for militarism but for becoming fit. Strive all your life for your nation and always be a force for peace, international amity and goodwill. After these games you shall go to the World Olympics at Wembley Stadium, London, representing us as messengers of our goodwill and my best wishes will go with you. Remember, to win is nothing, it is the effort and the spirit behind the effort that counts.”

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