National Games, Nepal’s biggest sporting spectacle is an opportunity to develop sports infrastructure, to recognize great athletes and more importantly, to seek emerging talents and raise public awareness about health and fitness.
Though started thirty years ago as a biennial event, the recent National Games hosted for the first time by Far-western Region was, however, only its sixth edition. The meet concluded on March 4.
Republica’s sports editor Nabin Khatiwada recollects the eight-day event complementing photojournalist Bijay Gajmer’s visual entourage of the National Games.
That the far-western region, Nepal’s remotest region, could organize an event of such scale is in itself commendable. Dhangadi, Mahendranagar and Tikapur will enjoy the afterglow of being the host cities as they pulled the best they could to also promote their unique lifestyle and culture and sites of tourism and historical significance.
The Sixth National Games marked the beginning of a long-term project of constructing a stadium in Dhangadhi. Two parapets have been completed so far but the prospects of a closed stadium within the next few years look promising. Covered halls in Dhangadhi and Mahendranagar were also renovated, pointing toward positive sports infrastructure development.
Some 3,600 athletes from across the country vied for 320 gold medals and as usual, Central Region claimed the top spot with 131 gold medals. The host bettered its results on home ground claiming 23 gold medals and beating all shocks and dramas, by becoming champion in men’s football.
Swimmers Shailesh Rana and Shreya Dhital, athletes Pramila Rijal, Tilak Ram Tharu, Siddhant Adhikari and Bishwarupa Budha as well as taekwondo ace Manita Shahi reassured their ace performance. Rana bagged 10 gold and four silver medals while Dhital grabbed eight gold and four silver medals in swimming. Rana set a new national record in men’s 200m individual medley. Rijal, Tharu and Adhikari clinched four golds each. Budha and Shahi each claimed two golds.
Sabita Chaudhary set two national records in women’s 100m hurdles and 400m hurdles of athletics. She also won gold in 100x4 relay. Likewise, Tara Devi Pun and Devi Kumari Chaudhary of Nepal Police Club as well as Ram Maya Thapa of PLA Sports Club set new national records in weightlifting in their respective weight categories.
Emerging judoka Sunita Magar edged past Olympian and long time champion Debu Thapa in women’s 63 kg. Likewise, Bishal Shrestha stunned the Youth Olympic Games experienced Rajan Shrestha in men’s 58 kg of taekwondo. Emerging shuttler Nangsal Devi Tamang defeated long time champion Puja Shrestha in the women’s singles of badminton. She also claimed gold medals in women’s doubles, mixed doubles and women’s team event.
Universities’ basketball teams put up a laudable debut performance. In their first participation at the National Games, the women’s team clinched gold while the men’s team claimed silver.
The Sixth National Games drew controversy when Nepal Army (NA) pulled out of the event after the inclusion of People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Sports Club as a departmental team. However, NA defended its decision saying their athletes had to focus on the first South Asian Army Sports Meet.
Meanwhile, bad management marred the Sixth National Games. Complaints by athletes about improper accommodation facilities, complaints of local civil society leaders about organizers’ ignorance toward their suggestions and grossly choreographed opening ceremony are a few to highlight.
Ignoring the worldwide practice of one national association for a game, Nepal Sports Council (NSC) not only registered National Taekwondo Union but also included it in the National Games. Initially, NSC stated it was included only as a demonstration game but after protests in Dhangadhi, NSC was forced to include it in the competitive category. This anarchism under the protection of some Maoist leaders created scenes in Dhangadhi time and again.
Meanwhile, some indiscipline and unsporting behaviors were also marked. To put forward an example, Armed Police Force (APF) players disrupted the boxing finals for about half an hour chanting slogans against judges after Far-western’s pugilist Laxman Saud defeated Bikram Pariyar of APF.