LAHORE: The 14th edition of the South Asian Games (SAG) will be held in Pakistan’s cities of Lahore, Sialkot, Faisalabad, Gujranwala and Islamabad in 2023. The 14th South Asian Games had originally been expected to take place in 2021 but the coronavirus pandemic has delayed those plans. Pakistan has hosted the event twice before in Islamabad in 2004 and 1989. Nepal’s cities of Kathmandu and Pokhara staged the last South Asian Games, 13th edition, in 2019. A virtual meeting of the South Asian Olympic Council (SAOC), regarding the 14th SAG, was held on Tuesday. The meeting was hosted by the National Olympic Committee Pakistan under the Chairmanship of Lt Gen (r) Syed Arif Hasan, who is also President of the SAOC and President of the Pakistan Olympic Association. The meeting was held in a virtual mode due to travel restrictions. The Council’s meeting was attended by the Presidents and Secretaries General of the SAOC countries to discuss various matters regarding the South Asian Games. Syed Shahed Reza (Secretary General of Bangladesh Olympic Association), Sonam Karma Tshering (Secretary General of Bhutan Olympic Committee), Rajeev Mehta (Secretary General of Indian Olympic Association), Mohamed Abdul Sattar (President of Maldives Olympic Committee), Nilendra Raj Shrestha (Secretary General of Nepal Olympic Committee), Maxwell De Silva (Secretary General of National Olympic Committee of Sri Lanka) and Muhammad Khalid Mahmood (Secretary General of Pakistan Olympic Association) attended the meeting. “The Council was briefed about the forthcoming South Asian Games allocated to Pakistan as well as cities, dates and sports programmess for the Games. The Council was informed that the Games had been approved by the Imran Khan, Prime Minister of Pakistan. The Council was delighted to note that Pakistan would be hosting the Games in Lahore. The SAOC President apprised the Council that certain sports events will be held in other cities including Faisalabad, Gujranwala, Islamabad and Sialkot. The Council appreciated the idea of holding the Games in five cities thus not only enabling a larger crowd participation and greater interaction within the people of South Asia but also more development of infrastructure in a larger number of cities,” a spokesman for the POA said. The POA official added the Council agreed to initiate the process to finalise 25 plus 2 sports to be part of the 14th SAG. “The Council also endorsed the proposal to hold the SAG in March 2023.” History of South Asian Games: The South Asian Games is a biennial multi-sport event held among the athletes from South Asia. The governing body of these Games is the SAOC which was formed in 1983. A proposal for the South Asian Games was first discussed in Germany by Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Sri Lanka in 1981. They were planning to start the South Asian Games following year but they couldn’t due to political situation in South Asia. The birth of the South Asian Games had to wait till September 17th, 1984. At present, the South Asian Games are joined by seven members namely Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. Afghanistan joined the SAG in 2004 and left the organisation in 2016. These Games, often hyped as the South Asian version of the Olympic Games, also help in promoting cultural exchanges between the member countries. Devoid of any cultural, religious racial or political barriers, the member countries gather together under one banner to create a healthy disciplined show of sportsmanship. The Games clearly express the message of goodwill, brotherhood, peace and prosperity. Pakistan Sports Board to support South Asian Games: Meanwhile, Pakistan Sports Board (PSB) Director General Asif Zaman has vowed to steer the country’s sports sector out of the current crisis by focusing on the Olympic sports. “”We will take every possible step to bring marked improvement in Pakistan’s sports sector, which has faced a number of issues and challenges for years,” Asif said while talking to media here at the Pakistan Sports Complex. “We have decided to prioritise Olympic sports. Though we will also support other games, but now our focus is on Olympic sports,” the DG said, adding he had also told the PSB to bring visible improvement. “We have also decided to improve the condition of our sports facilities. I have also requested the government of Cuba for a few boxing coaches to train our boxers,” he added. Asif said fans wanted some events of the 2023 South Asian Games should be held in Peshawar and Islamabad instead of the entire gala being staged in Lahore. “The Pakistan Olympic Association will hold the regional sports gala, and in this regard the PSB will fully cooperate with the POA to make the SA Games successful.” After Eidul Azha, he said, a crucial meeting would be held in Islamabad to take some important decision regarding the 2023 SAG.