EDITORIAL: SAG and beyond

Nepal must use the SAG as a starting point to show better performance in the Asian Games and Olympics by keeping politics at bay

The 13th South Asian Games (SAG) concluded on Tuesday, with Nepal ranking second in the medal tally, riding on its best performance in all the games held to date. Pakistan will now host the 14th SAG. Nepal won a record number of medals – 51 golds, 60 silvers and 95 bronzes – in the SAG, including a gold in men’s football, a big achievement in itself. Nepal began on a winning streak with a haul of 15 golds on a single day, 14 of them in martial arts. What followed proved that Nepal’s forte lay in individual events, athletics and swimming included. Seventeen-year-old Gaurika Singh was the darling of the swimming events, bagging four gold medals, two silvers and three bronzes in different categories, equaling the overall record of Deepak Bista who had bagged four golds in taekwondo from as many SAG games. Gaurika is now eyeing the Olympics, which will be held in nine months. There were more favourable outcomes to make Nepal proud. Kiran Singh Bogati won the marathon gold held on Saturday while Santoshi Shrestha won the women’s 10,000m race, becoming the first Nepali woman athlete to win a gold medal. Gopi Chandra Parki bagged the men’s 5,000m gold. Baikuntha Manandhar is the first Nepali athlete to have performed a hat-trick in marathon in three consecutive editions of the SAG. Minu Gurung also became the first Nepali female boxer to win a gold in the 54kg category.

For the Nepali sports fraternity, the 13th edition of SAG will be something to remember for ages to come, thanks to the excellent performance, especially in individual events. A record number of medals were won by women while new records were also set in some events. One of the features of the game was that it was also held in the Lake City of Pokhara and the religious city of Janakpur to show that a regional level sports event could also be organised outside the capital. The National Sports Council (NSC) left no stone unturned to make it a grand success with people from all walks of life cooperating with great fervour, even though the necessary infrastructure was undergoing renovation till the last minute.

The SAG has concluded successfully, but the NSC cannot afford to rest on its laurels. This is a regional sporting event, which must be capitalised as a launching pad to now win medals in the Asian Games and the Olympics. The concerned ministry, in tandem with other sporting agencies, must rigorously train our sportspersons and start hunting for budding talents in areas where Nepal can perform fairly well in international events. While making adequate investment in sports, we must keep politics away from it, as the tendency has been to use the different sports bodies to serve the interests of the parties in power. Unlike other regions of the world, sports is not a priority of governments in South Asia, in general, and Nepal, in particular. This edition has, however, shown that Nepal holds huge potential, especially in individual sports. Despite the many hiccups, including delay in rebuilding the Dasharath Stadium and failure to provide the needed sports gear and equipment, Nepal has once again proved its ability to host the regional extravaganza within a limited time. All deserve praise for making it a grand success.

Children’s safety

Police have arrested an American citizen on the charge of sexually abusing minors in Kathmandu. Jason Lloyd Moody, 40, of Illinois, was arrested Monday from a hotel near the airport for sexually abusing three girls below 11 and also on the charge of abusing four underage boys. This, however, is not the first time a foreigner has been arrested for sexually abusing minors. The frequency with which reports about paedophiles are appearing in the media means that it could be a matter of serious concern, demanding immediate attention of the government, parents and the society at large.

Poverty makes it easy for paedophiles to prey on children, as was the case in the above incident, where all three girls came from squatter settlements. Entering Nepal is easy with visas readily available on arrival for anyone. As Nepal embarks on a mission to bring in two million tourists during the Visit Nepal Year 2020, one must see to it that such unwanted elements are rounded up before they do any harm. Hotels must be made to report on any suspicious presence of minors there. The authorities and the society must also keep close watch of shelter homes and such places where children are likely to be abused.