Pakistan at Olympics 2008: Beijing and Beyond

Posted on August 17, 2008
Filed Under >Adil Najam, Sports
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Adil Najam

Miracles can still happen. But they are unlikely to.

In a few hours (at 6PM Beijing time) Pakistan’s field hockey team will play its fourth qualifying game against South Africa. Pakistan can and should win this game (South Africa is rated at the bottom of the teams that have qualified for Beijing). But as important will be the results of the Australia v. Netherlands match, also to be played today at 8.30PM Beijing time. If Australia beats the Netherlands (possible) and – and this is very important - Pakistan then also beats the Netherlands (quite unlikely) and ends up with a goal average better than the Netherlands then Pakistan may – and, yes, its is still a may - have a chance to slide into the semi-finals (things will also depend of what Great Britain does in its remaining games). Had we not lost our first game to Great Britain we might have had a realistic chance; but we did not.

[UPDATE: Pakistan did defeat South Africa, 3-1, but the Australia-Netherlands game ended in a draw which means they have both now moved into the Semi-Finals, and Pakistan has not.]

As it turns out, then, it will take more than just a miracle now for Pakistan to medal at Beijing.

(AFP Photo: From Left -Iraq’s Dana Abdulrazak, France’s Christine Arron, Pakistan’s Sadaf Siddiqui, Brazil’s Lucimar de Moura, Lauryn Williams of the US and Tuvalu’s Asenate Manoa during the women’s 100m heat at the 2008 Beijing Olympics on August 16, 2008.

(AFP Photo: From Left – Puerto Rico’s Hector Cotto Gonzalez, Czech Republic’s Petr Svoboda, Colombian Paulo Villar, Pakistan’s Abdul Rashid, and Barbados’s Ryan Brathwaite during the men’s 110m hurdles heat at the 2008 Beijing Olympics on August 18, 2008.

But let us not be too harsh on the Pakistan Olympic squad. Winning is great. But participation also matters. And we have not been paying enough attention to Pakistani athletes, especially those not playing hockey, who have actually been participating at Beijing. So, here is a summary of what they have been up to. We salute them for their participation. Cheer them on for the effort they have put in. And look forward to better placements next time. (One of the following, Abdul Rashid, will be participating in the 110m hurdles at 311.26AM Beijing Time, Monday):

08.10.2008 – 25 years old Siddique Umar participated in the Men’s M 10m Air Rifle (60 shots). With a score of 578.0 he finished 48th.

08.13.2008 – 25 years old Adil Baig participated in Heat 5 of the Men’s 50m swimming qualifier. With a time of 25.66 seconds he finished 7th in his heat and overall 74th in the qualifiers.

08.14.2008 – 18 years old Kiran Khan participated in Heat 4 of the Women’s 50m swimming qualifier. With a time of 29.84 seconds she finished 6th in her heat and overall 69th in the qualifiers.

08.15.2008 – 22 years old Sadaf Siddiqui participated in Heat 2 of the Women’s 100m Round 1 Heat 2. With a time of 12.41 seconds she finished 7th in her heat. She did not qualify for next round.

08.16.2008 – 25 years old Siddique Umar participated in the Men’s 50m Free Rifle 3 positions (3×40 shots). With a score of 1116.0 he finished 49th.

08.18.2008 – 29 years old Abdul Rashid participated in the Men’s 110m Hurdles Round 1, Heat 3. With a time of 11.26 seconds he finished 8th amongst 8 in his heat.

Not unexpectedly, it is ever more clear that Pakistan’s Olympic 2008 contingent is likely to return from Beijing without any medals. Indeed, Pakistan has not won a medal since the 1992 Barcelona games (Bronze in Hockey). The question, then, is what could we do to change this dry spell. Not just in hockey but in other sports?

Squash legend Jehangir Khan, who now leads the World Squash Federation (WSF) is right now trying to make Squash an Olympics sport for the 2016 Games. He is quite likely to succeed. But given Pakistan’s recent squash performance it is not certain that this will ensure us a medal in 2016.

Cricket, in its 20-20 variant, could also make it to the Olympics sometime soon. Cricket was actually contested in the 1900 Olympics, but only two countries participated. That would likely make us competitive. But what about existing sports? If there was the will and the resources what could one do to make Pakistan show up in the medal tables?

What specific steps would you take if you were made the sports czar of Pakistan with teh goal of ensuring that Pakistan appears in the medal table by 2016. What sports would you focus on? Why? How?

Do please share ideas. Maybe, just maybe, someone out there may be listening.

35 Comments on “Pakistan at Olympics 2008: Beijing and Beyond”

  1. jk says:
    August 17th, 2008 1:45 am

    Are there higher resolution images available of the racers? Sadaf Siddiqui was only about 1 second behind the gold winner. The other racers are wearing aero-dynamic track suits while she is burdened with baggy air drag clothes. Also, notice the running form of the winners and our runner may not have received the best training and her form is not as proper as the others.

    If Sadaf Siddiqui had a trainer than taught the most efficient running form and also had aerodynamic clothes then I have no doubt that she would have been the gold medalist.

  2. ASAD says:
    August 17th, 2008 1:57 am

    JK, I agree that with better training and facilities our athletes can do better. But Sadaf Siddiqui was 7th in a field of 8 in what was only a Round 1 heat. So she was NOWHERE NEAR a winning time by a long stretch.

    1 seconds in a 100m dash is an eternity. Its usually around 1/10th of what would be an Olympic gold winning time!

  3. Imran says:
    August 17th, 2008 2:19 am

    Tens of Billions of Dollars in Investment into world class Facilities with foreign coaches = Medals

    Very difficult ask, since our country is at war.

  4. ASAD says:
    August 17th, 2008 2:22 am

    I don’t think you need tens of billions of dollars at all.

    You need strategy and some serious thinking about where we can be good. Look at Cuba, or Jamaica, or many other smaller countries that figure out their strengths and then invest real attention there.

    If Squash and Cricket become Olympic sports that will make things more interesting right there.

    But here are a few other sports where I think some investment of effort might pay up:

    1. Boxing
    2. Shooting
    3. Weight-lifting

  5. Navers says:
    August 17th, 2008 2:27 am

    42nd International games for children were held in San Francisco from July 10 to July 15 this year. There was a small contingent of children ages 12 to 16 that participated in these games from Lahore. As one of the boys was related to me so I had a chance to visit them in San Francisco. Before meeting them in person and spending three days with them I frankly had an impression that these kids were not serious athletes and just here to visit USA. I met three children who all got fourth position in their events ( 100M , 400M and long jump). Incidently they were all beaten by kids from China . That is pretty remarkable considering children from 70 cities world wide participated. I was very impressed to meet these young men and they all vowed to continue focus on their training and try to get college scholarships in USA. So far I have only met two people who have studied at a major USA University on a full Athletic Scholarship (one had a golf scholarship at USC another had a Tennis Scholarship at UC Irvine). In summary I can tell you that we have a lot of raw talent. Watching the Olympics reminds one that there are so many different sports which have so little commercial value but a gold medal is a gold medal. I guess we should focus on one of those categories. Who would be that first Pakistani to get an individual gold Medal?

  6. Eidee Man says:
    August 17th, 2008 2:28 am

    We need a curling team.

  7. Aqil Sajjad says:
    August 17th, 2008 5:20 am

    I don’t think we need some extra-ordinary measures or suggestions to do better in sports. All we need is just a bit of common sense and the required will.

    Sports needs to be treated as an industry. All the staff that is needed to maintain facilities, coaches, administrators, and above all, players can make their living from the money generated from the sport itself if it is properly commercialized.

    The administrative structure for every sport should be 2-tier, with city/district boards and a national board. There should be a more clearly laid out career path for sports administrators. Perhaps starting from district board entry positions, and then gradually rising on the basis of performance. The top administrators should have strong credentials in sports administration instead of being arbitrarily appointed like Nasim Ashraf just for being a crony of the president. There should also be a route for former players, who have administrative ability to get into administration, perhaps subject to some qualification like a masters in sports administration, an MBA or some other such thing.

    Simply stating proper job descriptions and qualifications, and having a merit based system for administrators in which they have a chance of moving up on the basis of performance can make a lot of difference.

    Then there are other obvious things, such as having professional coaches, more inter-school sports, more media coverage etc etc. A lot can be done even with somewhat limited funding.

  8. Manzoor says:
    August 17th, 2008 6:56 am

    End of politics, leg pulling and favoritism =medals

  9. aa says:
    August 17th, 2008 8:01 am

    Pakistan are potentially world class at hockey. Poorer countries around the world such as Iraq and African countries (and so on) ovbiously cannot afford the resources to play 3/4 of the games in the Olympics. And the ones they can, for example running; hockey; and field events, wheres the money to train them coming from? i dont think its fair on all countries to be honest. But all of the less fortunate countries put so much effort it; and thats all that counts i guess, as no ones doing any thing about it.

  10. Kamran says:
    August 17th, 2008 9:09 am

    The main issue has been that we excel (or used to) in those games which are not included in the Olympics. Cricket, Squash, Snooker, Polo.

    We will have to invest more energies in what we are already good at. Starting something afresh won’t be possible. So either try to get these games included in the Olympics or send our bus conductors to contest for Gymnastics. I am sure they will do us proud.

  11. MQ says:
    August 17th, 2008 9:19 am

    Yes, miracles do happen, but you cannot rely upon them.

  12. Adil Najam says:
    August 17th, 2008 9:57 am

    Pakistan did, as expected, defeat South Africa. By 3-1. This was South Africa’s first goal in the entire tournament. The Australia-Netherlands game is in progress right now.

  13. August 17th, 2008 12:12 pm

    The Australia-Netherlands game ended in a draw. This means that both Australia and the Netherlands have now qualified for the Semi-Finals and even if Pakistan do beat the Dutch in their last game (unlikely), we will still not qualify for the semis.

  14. hanzi says:
    August 17th, 2008 4:17 pm

    i am a true hockey lover .. a maniac ..!!
    i love hockey n watch it very carefully …!!
    there are few things that should be changed ..
    i kno few have many sifarishi players in our squad !!
    few forwards nd few at defence ..!!
    pakistan is full of talent , pak hockey federation must
    correct its self …!! nd should put real pakistan talent in
    the paki squad !! …. then ill bet ya guys … pak hockey vll touch
    the sky in no time …!!!!!saab sae pehlay pakistan!!! pakistan zindabad!!

  15. AAA says:
    August 17th, 2008 4:48 pm

    I think we should invest in a few sports but our focus to begin with should not be Olympics.

    Have our athletes compete in regional tournaments as much as they can. Also host more regional tournaments. From this identify the few athletes and coaches who have real potential an build from there.

    You cannot become a powerhouse in one day but you have to be patient.

    Even India, which is so much bigger and economically doing well has only won its very first even individual gold medal in this Olympics – in shooting.

    The lesson is that you have to make this a national priority like China and Cuba have done.

  16. Shiraz says:
    August 17th, 2008 10:50 pm

    1. Sports need die hard fans and followers to generate revenue. In Pakistan, sports are generally organized by institutions (Army, Police etc) then regions. I believe more people will buy tickets and go see match if it is cricket match between Rawalpindi and Lahore vs. UBL and ABL.

    2. Sports should be handled as franchise similar to what US does for NBA, NFL etc.

  17. Kamaluddin says:
    August 18th, 2008 10:38 pm

    yaaro, if they can have trampoline as a

  18. AJMAL says:
    August 19th, 2008 12:34 am

    So, Pakistan goes out of hockey finally. We lost to Holland 4-2 today. Its all over now!


  19. Tina says:
    August 19th, 2008 8:23 am

    I am glad to see the lady athletes from Iraq and Pakistan running, but feel bad that they will never have a realistic chance at world titles because they have to run in baggy clothing that catches the wind. This is just a terrible pity.

  20. Yasir Hasan says:
    August 20th, 2008 1:26 pm

    Even Afghanistan has won a medal
    See the link….


    How many does Pakistan has won in current Olympics?

  21. Shirjeel says:
    August 20th, 2008 6:02 pm

    Thanks Adil Najam for summarizing Pakistan’s performance at Beijing Olympics. Apart from hockey, Pakistan had won medals only in boxing and wrestling in the past. Though we have participated in some other sports, our performance had been dismal.

    For our athletes to show high standards at Olympics, we have to invest heavily in their training by providing them proper equipment, upgraded sports facilities and good coaches. We have to target a few games (rowing, boxing, wrestling, weight lifting, etc)and then launch a country wide campaign to select talented young athletes and then train them properly. We may learn from the Chinese model and even solicit their assistance in this respect.

    The Chinese are winning medals thanks to something called Project 119 which they launched after Sydney Olympics in 2000. Chinese calculated that there are 119 disciplines like track & field, pool, etc where Chinese were weak. They won only one gold in those 119 sports at Sydney. Project 119 was launched with billion of dollars investment and its results are evident from the medals table.

    We may not be able to replicate what China did or spend billions but we can at least take some steps with a sense of purpose and determination for improving the sports scene in Pakistan.

  22. Khan says:
    August 20th, 2008 11:52 pm

    If India can win 3 medals -1 gold and 2 bronzes, are we still sleeping. It’s shame on our part not to compete with india atleast. india despite being a cricket country they have proved that they can do. I am sure in the 2012 Olympics, they might target 2-3 golds. Why are we not changing ? Only talking about religion….

  23. ASAD says:
    August 21st, 2008 12:45 am

    I think the country to learn from is JAMAICA

    Small country, very poor, but they figure out where the talent is and then invest everything in creating champions in that sport. And now they rule the sprinting.

  24. Khan says:
    August 21st, 2008 1:54 am

    Asad – We are talking about overall sporting presence. India i am comparing because see their global standing in Tennis – Leander / Mahesh / Sania . Chess – Vishwanathan Anand . Shooting -Rathore / Abhinav Bhindra . Wrestling – the whole bunch from BHIWANI Haryana …..I think they may wake up very soon also on Track and field and Swimming….My point is to compare 2 similar nations – one with scientific thinking and the other with fundamental thinking…..

  25. ASAD says:
    August 21st, 2008 2:05 am

    Dear Khan (I assume from you comment that you are an Indian, but I may be wrong).

    As a Pakistani, I am really not interested in India’s performance because it is not a comparable country (8 times the population size) plus its performance is even worse than Pakistan’s given its size (did not even qualify in hockey). Anyhow, that is for you guys in India to discuss, we wish you well.

    Also, I think it is very unfair of you to call India, your country, a fundamentalist country. I don’t think it is. As you say, your “point is to compare 2 similar nations.” That woudl mean comparing China and India (similar size, growth rates, etc.). One is a superpower in sports and the other, well what can I say.

    Anyhow, as I said I wish India had done better in sports. I wish you guys well and you should really not be so harsh on yourself to call your country India a fundamentalist country. That is really low self-esteem. You guys have much to be proud of.

    take care.

  26. Ali Irfan says:
    August 21st, 2008 10:27 pm

    I am also amazed at Jamaica men and women ruling the track and field sprints.

    Does anyone know what type of progams do they have. I assume from this you need facilities that Jamaica must have invested in? This is really worth investigating as to what we can learn from this small poor country in how o set up a program to excel in the right sports.

  27. Zulfikar Khan says:
    August 22nd, 2008 5:55 am

    Hum kabhi aage nahi badh paayege……..

    Reason : Jab bhi India aage aata hai toh hum kehte hai unki population zayada hai n all that…………

    Hum Jeetne walo ki taang khich sakte hai par jeet nahi sakte……….

    Laalat hai…..

  28. Ram Chandra says:
    August 22nd, 2008 9:04 am

    Reality Fact:
    Pakistan cannot do anything in any present olympic sports.
    First Pakistan Women: U cannot compete with head to toe close dresses compare to other countries who are winning medals.Pakistan doesnot encourage women to complete in major competition.
    Pakistan Men: Apart from Hockey there are no notable training facilities & guidance to guide them.
    Pakistan should concentrate on development in Sports rather than fighting among themselves.

  29. Sports Lover says:
    August 22nd, 2008 10:42 pm

    Glad that you have highlighted the non-hockey athletes too. Let us not forget the Olympics motto.

    I also think that Jamaica is teh country to learn from. FOcus on your strengths and think strategically about where we can make the best.

    P.S. By the way, thsi childish India-Pakistan bickering in last few comments is silly and shoudl be removed. Does not matter if the Indian commenter was acting arrogant and taunting. He should have been ignored. I really think moderator shoudl just remove all such childish comments.

  30. Allah Wasaya says:
    August 25th, 2008 1:08 am

    I was just reading “36 facts about the Olympic medal count” on yahoo. One of the fact they mentioned is, “Pakistan was the most populous country not to win an Olympic medal (164 million residents, sixth-largest nation in the world).” Pretty disappointing to say the least.

  31. Farooqui says:
    August 26th, 2008 11:37 am

    Focussing on sports as we see again and again in different places can have huge social benefits and a sense of pride in country. For that reason alone I think it is a good investment for Pakistan. We should focus on a few sports and put serious resources in becoming competitive in them over the next 20 years (you cannot do this overnight).

    I think good candidates are:
    Boxing (lighter weights)
    Midde distance running

    Also, I do think that both cricket and squash will make it to the Olympics soon and that will also add to Pakistan’s interest in this.

  32. Danni says:
    September 4th, 2008 5:09 am

    I think Wrestling (Since Kabbadi is already popular), boxing (physique of the people esp. Pathans) and maybe long distance running.

  33. Murad says:
    January 6th, 2009 6:38 am

    Are we doing anything for preparing for the next Olympics. I imagine not!

  34. Tina says:
    February 23rd, 2010 3:44 pm

    I think this is great for Pakistan! Unfortunately, the country has been struggling and is constantly painted in a poor light by the media. This brings hope and is a testament that dreams really do come true!

  35. Asma says:
    February 23rd, 2010 4:12 pm

    Thank you, Tina, for your support and encouragement.

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