KARACHI: Sports authorities have failed to replace the tartan track at National Sports Training and Coaching Centre (NSTCC) although it completed its lifetime of nine years way back in 2004.
The track was laid in 1996. The facility has never been properly maintained, which accelerated its deterioration. The poor condition of the track recently resulted in the cancellation of National Athletics Championship, which was to be held in Karachi this month.
Now it is 16 years old and has become too hard for competitions. But the authorities in the Pakistan Sports Board are not considering its replacement. This delay of more than seven years to replace the track has given birth to conspiracies. A group of athletes who regularly practice there said that the PSB would have resolved the matter years ago had this issue not belonged to Karachi.
They said the tartan track of Jinnah Sports Complex, Islamabad, was replaced by PSB in 2004 when it completed its lifetime of nine years. Zulfiqar Ali Abro, Director General PSB’s Karachi centre confirmed to ‘The News’ that the track was laid in 1996 and now it has crossed its expiry. “Its time is over and any international event cannot be organised here. As per rules related to the track, any national level event also cannot not held on it,” he said.
He added that since they do not have any alternative, they are compelled to organise events on this too old track. “I have dispatched a communiqué to the head office of PSB in Islamabad and fully recommended that the track should be replaced,” said the Acting Director.
It may be noted here that the dilapidated condition of the track was one of the major reasons for the shifting of the 44th National Athletic Championship from Karachi to Islamabad this month.
Though the Athletics Federation of Pakistan (AFP) authorities tried their best to cover up the matter by terming poor law and order situation of the city as the prime reason for the shift, some people said it was shifted because of the differences between two groups in AFP.
When contacted, President Sindh Athletics Association (SAA) Zahid Rizvi said that in the general body meeting of their federation on May 7 they were told by Wapda and Army that they could not play on the expired tartan track at NSTCC in the national athletic championship in Karachi.
He further said that he had a meeting with the Director General PSB in which it was decided that they would do re-coating of the track. “He has ordered the concerned men to prepare a plan of re-coating the track, but I believe replacement is the only solution,” he added.
Rizvi said he expects re-coating in two to three months, as they are planning to organise a national event of athletics after Ramazan. “But that solely depends on the track because we cannot hold any event on this poor track,” said the president SAA.
He said that the track would be unusable two years after its re-coating. “It has never been given proper maintenance since its laying. Water spray is a must for its durability, but only in rains it gets water,” he said.
The president SAA further said that in the initial two years of its laying it was under the control of Rangers, and nobody was allowed to go there for its maintenance. And that was quite damaging for the track, he said.
Imran Khan, Pakistan’s former athlete and now a level-five coach, has a different opinion, however. He said that few international athletics events are organised in Karachi. Jinnah Sports Complex in Islamabad is the best place for this purpose, “so we should not live in fools’ paradise and make such type of plan and policies which could be implemented”.
He said that the present track can be used easily at domestic level for all competitions if properly maintained. He further said that the track was old, but it was used only sparingly. He said only one national games or one or two other national level athletics events were organised here. Otherwise only local athletes and school and college guys practise here, he said.
He said the track can still be used for domestic competitions if properly maintained. “Those who think it will be replaced must stop dreaming. PSB cannot bear a huge amount of funds for the purpose,” he said.
Khan said that those who failed to organise the national championship in Karachi at NSTCC are now presenting lame excuses to cover up their incompetence. Top officials of PSB, when contacted, said that PSB has been facing financial constraints and is not in a position to undertake such a big project. But PSB hRelay hiccup as flame goes out