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Punjab International Sports Festival kicks off
The 8-day event, which includes 1,381 players from 26 countries, aims to portray a positive image of the region.
By Abdul Nasir Khan
LAHORE – The Punjab International Sports Festival 2012 kicked off November 7, with 1,381 athletes from 26 countries competing in more than 11 sports over the next eight days.
Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif and Indian Punjab Deputy Chief Minister Sardar Sukhbir Singh Badal attended the colourful opening ceremony in the National Hockey Stadium Lahore.
Male and female athletes from Central Asian countries and beyond are taking part in track and field, baseball, football, fistball, hockey, touch ball, table tennis, badminton, jujitsu, rugby and kabaddi.
“The sports festival … will bring people of different nationalities closer besides portraying a better image of Pakistan,” Shahbaz said while inaugurating the event in presence of 40,000 cheering spectators.
“Pakistan and India would test their talent in hockey, kabaddi, tug of war and wrestling,” Shahbaz said adding, “After every two years, the Punjab Cup will be organised between (our) countries.”
The event is being held simultaneously with the Dosti Cup, a contest between Pakistani and Indian deaf-mute teams. The Dosti Cup includes competitions in cricket, kabaddi, wrestling, badminton (male and female), table tennis and chess.
The festival marks “the first time that a … contingent of 1,381 players plus their coaches and managers descended on the soil of Pakistan,” Shahbaz said.
“The Punjab International Sports Festival will give new dimension to the youth of the country,” he said. “We are not talking about one city or a province but are talking about the whole of Pakistan.”
“Yes we are very happy and enjoying this beautiful event,” said Sidra, a Lahore-based sports fan. “The efforts of the youth will send a soft image of the country to the world and showcase the talent the youth of Pakistan possess.”
“Pakistan is not all about bad news,” another fan, Jahangir Khan, said. “Good news like this festival and others cheers the residents.”
“This festival united the teams from this region ... and improves relations between the participating countries,” said Shahbaz.
The games are taking place under tight security at sports venues across the city.