10th South Asian Games begin

Colombo, August 18:

Rajendra Kapali led the Nepali contingent at the 10th South Asian Federation Games (SAG) at the inaugural ceremony here at the Sugathadasa Stadium today. Kapali, who has been taking part in the regional tournament since sixth SAF Games in Colombo in 1991, hoisted the Nepali flag.

President of Sri Lanka Mahinda Rajapaksa declared the tournament open. Country’s best athletes Nagalingam Ehirweerasingham and Sriyani Kulawansa lit the Games lamp. School and college students presented the cultural programme on the occasion. A total of more than 500 athletes and officials from eight nations are taking part in the 11-day event. The fireworks brought life not only at the stadium but also the whole of the Colombo city.

Sri Lankan army also jumped with the parachute with flags of participating nations, and flags of International Olympic Committee, Olympic Council of Asia and the flag of National Olympic Committee of Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka are the strongest contingent in terms of participants with 462 members, while India — who have been the regional powerhouse finishing first in all the previous nine editions — have fielded 418 members. A total of 375 Pakistani players and officials arrived for the tournament, while 321 Nepali joined in for 18 of the 20 disciplines included in the event.

Bangladesh have fielded 240 while Maldives brought 98 members. A total of 123 players and officials from Afghanistanand 71 from Bhutan are competing in the tournament. Though football and badminton have started already, the formal announcement was made by the president at the inauguration.

The tournament began under the clouds of gloomy weather and tense security. The rain that began just moments before the inauguration ceremony could not hamper the programme.

The security situation is also of great concern for all the participating nations, especially after South Africa pulled out of the tri-series one-day cricket tournament that also included India.

Despite the deteriorating situation, the organisers did not hesitate to held the grand ceremony. But the presence of massive number of security in and around the city could gave the visitors a feeling of little hesitation.

Meanwhile, the Nepali contingent was treated indifferently by the organisers as well as the Nepal Olympic Committee officials. Four of the 16 Nepali journalists did not get the media accreditation cards and faced difficulties in entering the stadium.

Nepal take on Afghans

Colombo: Nepal face Afghanistan in Group B match at the 10th SAG football tournament today. All four teams are tied on equal two points and Saturday’s last matches will decide the fate of the two teams to advance. India plays Bangladesh in an other match. — HNS