Kathmandu, April 13

Like the opening ceremony, the fifth National Games concluded here on Sunday with a grand closing ceremony but it failed to live up to it’s own motto — Peace, Development, Harmony and Unity.

Held after a decade, the Games will long be remembered for political reasons rather than for player’s achievement and success. The decision of the National Sports Council, supreme sports governing body, to include Maoists-affiliated People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Nepal Sports Club a day after the opening ceremony drew severe criticism from several quarters.

It was probably first incident in the history of sports that a team was allowed to take part midway through the Games. Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal, during the opening ceremony, made venomous remarks against the erstwhile royal regime for manipulating and using NSC for their self interests. But later it was the PM himself who directed the NSC to include the PLA in the Games following the footsteps of the people against whom he had spit venom. Only eight teams — five development regions, Nepal Army, Nepal Police and Armed Police Force (APF) — were supposed to take part in the Games.

Putting aside all the rules, norms and spirit of sports, the NSC bowed to the PM pressure and made hasty changes in the tournament schedules allowing 108-member PLA team to participate in six disciplines — athletics, football volleyball, badminton, karate and taekwondo.

The NSC decision prompted the Nepal Army to opt out of the disciplines participated in by the PLA. Although, the Army Club opted out ruling the inclusion as against the rules of the games, their decision looked more political. The turn of the events also suggested that the Maoists-led government was bidding to lend legitimacy to PLA cadres by sharing the turf with the NA players.

Whatever the reasons be, the controversial PLA inclusion barred 87 Army players, including the likes of athletes Rajendra Bhandari and Arjun Basnet and footballer Bikash Malla, away from the Games. The NA, who were second behind Central Region in the fourth National Games, finished distant eighth this time with 18 gold medals — nine each in official and Unofficial sections. APF benefited from the Army withdrawal finishing second with 44 gold medals behind Central Region, who claimed 120 gold medals — 68 in official and 52 in open disciplines.

The game as a whole also failed to generate enthusiasm and players suffered from the poor management of accommodation.

The NSC even did not bother to hand over a championship trophy to the Central Region. The NSC announced cash prizes to national record setters and players winning multiple gold medals but neglected disciplines where players cannot set records or win multiple medals.

Karishma Karki hog the limelight with a stunning 12 gold-medal haul in a single meet wining all the events she participated in. Multi-talented Keshari Chaudhary of Nepal Police bagged five gold and a bronze medals in athletics.

Several national records, especially in athletics and weightlifting, were set. Most notably Jhanta Katawal of Nepal Police twice broke her own national record in all three sections — snatch, clean & jerk and total — in the women’s 74kg category weightlifting. Policewomen Laxmi Bun and Tara Devi Pun also set triple national records in women’s 75kg and 69kg categories respectively.

Onfield controversies also marred the Games. Kathmandu cricketers forfieted their match against Baitadi citing security reasons, while Baitadi players did not allow the organisers hold the semi-final protesting the association’s decision. In basketball, Western Region players manhandled officials during the bronze-medal match.