Kathmandu, February 19
Uncertainty looms large over the fate of the 13th South Asian Games scheduled to be held in Nepal, as the government has said it may not be able to host the event even in September due to delay in reconstruction of the national stadium and construction of other infrastructure.
The 13th edition of South Asia’s biggest sporting extravaganza was originally scheduled to be held in Nepal in February-March 2018. But the government expressed its inability to hold the games on schedule, citing delay in construction of infrastructure following the devastating earthquakes of 2015.
A meeting of South Asian Olympic Council held in Kathmandu in December 2017 had approved new dates, 9-18 March 2019, to hold the games.
Later, National Sports Council, a government entity, again proposed to postpone the event till September, citing lack of preparation.
In January, Nepal Olympic Committee got a letter from South Asian Olympic Council that SAG will not be held in March.
However, no decision has been taken on the new dates to hold the games.
NSC has forwarded a proposal to hold the games in September to NOC, which is yet to communicate with members of SAOC.
Now the government is unsure whether it will be able to host the event even in September.
During a meeting of the Parliamentary Education and Health Committee today, Minister of Youth and Sports Jagat Bahadur Sunuwar and Nepal Sports Council Member Secretary Keshab Kumar Bista said they were not in a position to hold the SAG in September due to managerial, economic and infrastructural problems. He said NSC had sought Rs 1.4 billion for the preparation of games from the Ministry of Finance, but it had not yet been sanctioned.
Dasarath Rangashala is being renovated in collaboration with China, but not even Sunuwar or Bista know when the construction will be completed.
“If necessary, the games can be further delayed,” said Bista.
The games were to be held in Kathmandu, Lalitpur and Bhaktapur, with Pokhara hosting women’s football matches.
Lawmaker and Chairperson of Nepal Olympic Committee Jeevan Ram Shrestha, who is also chairperson of South Asian Olympic Council, said the government should come up with proper plan regarding the games. He said new dates for SAG would be announced in consultation with other participating countries, but before that, the Nepali government should come up with tentative dates.
The inaugural edition of the South Asian Games was held in Nepal in 1984. Nepal also hosted the games in 1999.
India, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Maldives, Bhutan, Bangladesh and Pakistan are the countries that participate in the SAG, besides Nepal.
A version of this article appears in print on February 20, 2019 of The Himalayan Times.