By Sohail Ali
LAHORE:President, Pakistan Olympic Association (POA), Lt Gen (retd) Syed Arif Hasan said that all arrangements have been finalized to ensure smooth participation of Pakistan in the upcoming 19th Asian Games in Hangzhou, China later this month.
Addressing a news conference here on Wednesday at the POA house, Arif Hasan discussed the details of the contingent, which includes personnel supported by the Pakistan Sports Board (PSB), National Federations (NFs), and POA. A comprehensive sports-wise list of the contingent was shared with the media.
Responding to inquiries about allegations of excluding athletes and officials from Athletics, President POA clarified that POA had not excluded anyone, if received within the timelines. Instead, PSB received and forwarded the names of athletes and officials for accreditation much after the given timelines set by the Organizing Committee i.e. 20th May, 2023.
“Similar complications arose in the sport of Hockey due to late changes in team composition which were not processed. POA has informed the Pakistan Hockey Federation that processing new accreditation beyond the established deadlines was not possible”, he said.
President POA emphasized the importance of adhering to timelines and assured that any accreditation request received within the stipulated time frame had been processed. He also mentioned that the matter regarding allegations of exclusion of athletes and coaches is now before the Honorable Court, and 'we will also submit the facts before the Court'.
Addressing questions about the performance of athletes and officials, Lt Gen, Syed Arif Hasan stated that in the absence of a support structure for elite athletes in Pakistan, high expectations from the athletes would be unjustified.
“The Government of Pakistan has committed to improving national sports standards by establishing elite sports training facilities across Pakistan. In Pakistan, we are winning medals only due to the exceptional dedication and talent of athletes”, said POA chief.
Addressing a question on the situation of the Olympic Movement in Pakistan, he informed that POA, after 2021, attended the recent meeting of the Pakistan Sports Board, during which PSB agreed to amend its Constitution to align it with the Lausanne Agreement and the Olympic Charter. “Only once this process is complete, POA will be able to proceed with organizing major sports events in Pakistan, including the South Asian Games”, President POA added.
On the question about the FIH’s decision to withdraw Olympic Qualifier from Pakistan, President POA said that it is a great loss for national hockey.
On the question of the public discourse holding POA responsible for the sports development of Pakistan, he said that the people are rightly concerned as 'we have a huge potential in Pakistan'. POA is held accountable for the functions for which POA is in no way responsible.
“We continue to request the Govt to extend support to the Paris 2024 qualified athletes which should have started in 2021. Instead, the then officials opted to launch a misleading campaign to deflect the responsibility of deteriorating national sports standards on POA”, he asserted. As far as assistance for athletes is concerned, he informed that POA with the help of Olympic Solidarity has provided over Rs. 55 million to 11 athletes and 19 National Sports Federations during 2022-2023. This support includes the IOC Scholarship for athletes from which Arshad Nadeem, Ghulam Mustafa Bashir, Gulfam Joseph and many others are benefiting. However, given the lack of international standard facilities for elite athlete training, the standards of the national sport will only deteriorate”, he maintained.
POA chief informed that the POA has managed to train highly energetic professionals to support the strengthening of the internal governance of the sports organizations. “Our CDM for Asian Games is IOC-educated (MEMO Program) and is working along with other persons to add value to our governance structure”, President POA said.
He strongly denied that POA has prevented any sponsorship contract for Arshad Nadeem. This is very unfortunate as no one contacted us (POA) about such sponsorship agreement. "It is not our domain to decide on athlete’s sponsorship contracts rather we can just assist them by sharing the necessary guidelines. We welcome anyone who has an interest in supporting athletes, NFs and event organization. POA recently had a very productive partnership with the DHA Lahore who have contributed a lot by extending support to POA and are now also facilitating National Sports Federations for organization of events."
President POA expressed gratitude for the excellent arrangements made by the Hangzhou Organizing Committee to ensure the safety and comfort of participants during the Games. He also extended thanks to the Olympic Council of Asia for their guidance and support in facilitating the necessary arrangements. The press briefing concluded with a note of appreciation to the media for their continued support and coverage to highlight the problems faced by athletes.