Gearing up for the Afro-Asian Games

THE FACT that the Afro-Asian Games (AAG) have been finally allotted to Hyderabad will no doubt come as a boost to the sports administration in the State. But it also means that planning and preparation for the games must begin in right earnestness, and immediately too, if the success and euphoria of the 32nd National Games has to be repeated.

For one thing, organising the Afro-Asian Games will be a far more demanding and complex challenge than the National Games. In the National Games the competitors were only national and State level sportspersons whereas in the AAG, the participants will come from all corners of the globe and this could bring about a host of new complications, which so far the authorities have not experienced.

For example, one of the main concerns will be security and safety of the participants and spectators who may also come from various countries. The global community is increasingly embroiled in strife and conflict and politics has pervaded into every aspect of our lives, including sport. Gone are the days when wars and battles would come to a halt when the Olympic Games were held in ancient Greece.

Now it is the other way round and sports events are frequently affected or disrupted by political developments. No one can forget the massacre of Israeli sportspersons during the Munich Olympic Games in 1972, which was perhaps one of the most tragic incidents of international sports.

Even during the recent cricket World Cup championship, countries preferred to forfeit matches rather than run the risk of playing under hostile circumstances. Sportspersons who are seen as the representatives of their country are always an easy target for fanatical individuals or groups who may go to any lengths to indulge in some drastic deed.

In this respect the sportsperson is very much like any political figure. He or she is in the spotlight and is identified with the ideologies of the country, which he or she represents. In reality the player may be only intent upon excelling in sport and totally disinclined towards politics or confrontations. But the perception among hard-line groups may not take this into account. To them the sportsperson is simply a visible and easy quarry. The attack upon K. Srikkanth by a spectator in Pakistan is a typical case.

The SAF Games has been one of the biggest casualties to the ongoing discord between India and Pakistan in recent times. The much-postponed games were all set to get underway in Islamabad (without the participation of India) when the Iraq war threw a new spanner into the works.

Indeed the SAF Games, which was launched amidst much fanfare and expectations of promoting sports and friendship between participating countries, seems to be badly jinxed. The key issue has been the India-Pakistan equation. With the relationship between the two countries having deteriorated of late, the chances of the Games being held look bleak indeed.

There is some talk about holding the games in Sri Lanka but to what extent this will work remains to be seen.

And the AAG will not only include India and Pakistan but also several other nations in Asia and Africa, which are at loggerheads with each other. Upon the host body will fall the responsibility of overcoming these tricky and delicate issues and making the Games a success.

Of course there are some plus points that will go in favour of the organisers. These include the fact that a top class stadium already exists. As far as the actual organisation is concerned, the State government and the sports officials here have already had the experience of conducting the National Games and a few other national and international tournaments. This should prove worthwhile since they are aware of the primary requirements of sportspersons, the media and spectators.

Then the games will ensure that for the first time in Hyderabad some of the world's best athletes from countries such as Kenya, Ethiopia, China, Japan, Korea and other African and Asian sports superpowers, will be seen in action.

Nevertheless international issues, (which were not the factors present during the National Games) will have to be addressed with extreme caution when the State organises the Afro-Asian Games in October. If the administration has the foresight and prudence it must anticipate the hurdles that may come up and visualise methods to deal with these emergencies. And the time to start working on it is right now!