Omicron: A potential threat to Pakistan's participation in sporting events?

Omicron: A potential threat to Pakistan’s participation in sporting events?

Sports


Two players practice in a tennis court in Melbourne. — AFP
  • Pakistan did not implement specific policy to prepare athletes in bio-secure bubble for Tokyo Olympics held last year.
  • Critical to devise strategy to keep athletes in bio-secure environment for upcoming Commonwealth Games, Asian Games, Islamic Games.
  • Pakistan’s leading athletes want centralised camps with bio-secure environment to ensure their safety ahead of important events.

KARACHI: The Omicron strain of the coronavirus could jeopardise the country’s preparations for major international sporting events planned for the year, The News has reported.

Pakistan did not implement any specific policy to prepare athletes for life in a bio-secure bubble for the Tokyo Olympics held last year. Only a few sportspersons had opted to train in a bio-secure environment created at the Pakistan Sports Complex in Islamabad ahead of the event.

The effort made by the government wasn’t even considered up to the standards of ensuring a bio-secure environment by some major stakeholders.

Taking the gravity of the issue into account, it is critical this time that a strategy be devised to keep athletes in bio-secure and centralised camps for the upcoming Commonwealth Games, Asian Games, and Islamic Games.

The country’s leading players want centralised camps in Islamabad where a bio-secure environment can be created in order to ensure the safety of the athletes ahead of the important assignments.

“It will be extremely important to hold centralised camps in Islamabad in a bio-secure environment. It will help the athletes avoid any potential threat to their health and they will solely focus on their training for major assignments,” a major Pakistan player told The News when contacted.

A senior official of a very influential federation said centralised camps were very important as players of various disciplines could find themselves in a disciplined environment. “And I must say that centralised camps for major events this year should be held in Islamabad. It would be a plus point if a bio-secure bubble was also created. It would also be easy for the Board to monitor training closely,” the federation official said.

These days, some federations have set up camps on their own at various places and some are being backed by the Pakistan Sports Board (PSB).

PSB’s top officials claim that the Board had advised the federations to hold camps and that the Board would back them. But during interaction with some federations, it was learnt that some federations want the Board to communicate with them in black and white that the Board would back their camps.

When a senior official of the PSB was contacted, he said that the PSB is monitoring the situation of the fast-spreading Omicron variant of COVID-19.

“We are monitoring the situation and by February things will become clear. If there is a need to hold centralised camps in a bio-secure environment in Islamabad then we definitely will opt for that,” he said.

However, the big issue is that the facilities in the Pakistan Sports Complex Islamabad are being renovated and repaired keeping in view the preparations for the South Asian Games.

It has been learned that the work will be completed in June. However, the PSB official said that camps could still be possible at the complex.

“Yes, the renovation process will take some time but if we feel that it is necessary to hold centralised camps in Islamabad then those can be held. We will manage that,” the official said.

Another issue is that the sports complex in Islamabad direly needs more equipment for some disciplines if the authorities are to provide an efficient training environment.

“Most of the equipment at the Pakistan Sports Complex Islamabad is outdated or does not even meet the training requirements. As Pakistan is going to host the South Asian Games next year it is important to purchase modern equipment for various disciplines now. It will help the athletes to prepare for the Commonwealth Games, Asian Games, Islamic Games also and then such equipment will also be utilised in the South Asian Games,” a federation official said.

England is going to host the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham from July 28 to August 8. China will host the Asian Games from September 10-25 in Hangzhou. The Islamic Games, already announced in August in Konya, Turkey, are expected to be rescheduled sometime this year keeping in view the packed international calendar.

Meanwhile, a PSB official said that the Board would only back potential medal-winners during the coming events. The PSB plans to keep the camps, once initiated, alive until the South Asian Games for which the venues are yet to be finalised due to a lack of proper communication between the state and Pakistan Olympic Association (POA).



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