Published On:Wednesday, August 26, 2009
Posted by abhi2810

SAF Games - History

The SAF Games came into existence as the power of sports was recognised as an essential too to strengthen the SAARC movement. It was felt that a sports organisation should be formed for countries located in South Asia similar to the South East Asian Games (SEA Games) which proved to be popular and was recognised by the Olympic Council of Asia. The concept was discussed by officials of the countries in South Asia in 1982 and later at a meeting in Bahrain in 1983. A decision was then taken regarding formation of the South Asia Sports Federation. The membership was limited to the eight countries in the region, namely India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Nepal, Bhutan and the Maldives. The idea and the games acquired a formal shape in 1984 when Kathmandu spruced itself to play host to the first SAF Games. Barring Afghanistan all the member-countries called upon its young sportsmen to show their sporting skills on this new platform.

The first SAF Games were held from September 17 to 23, 1984. The number of disciplines were restricted to five only. Indian sportsmen topped the medal tally, winning 88 medals. Half of these medals were gold. There were 28 silver and 16 bronze medals won by India. Sri Lanka followed India by winning seven golds, 11 silver and 19 bronze medals whereas Pakistan got five gold, three silver and two bronze medals. As the games were held for the first time, all the gold medallists created new games records which were shattered in the subsequent editions. However, the two records created in swimming remain intact till date. Bula Choudhary of India won the 100-metre freestyle event clocking 1:2:81 whereas the Indian relay team won the 4x100 metre freestyle event which continue to find place in the record books. Football was the only team game which could fit into the scheme of the games. It’s gold was claimed by Nepal.
It was the turn of Dhaka to host the second edition of the SAF games in 1985. The games were held from December 20 to 26. Seven events were included. India dominated the scene carrying its medal winning mark to three figures which including 61 gold, 32 silver and 14 bronze. Pakistan and Bangladesh gathered 59 (21 gold, 26 silver and 12 bronze) and 64 (9 gold, 17 silver and 38 bronze), respectively. India won the gold medals in kabaddi and football.
In 1987, the cavalcade of the SAF Games arrived at Calcutta. Member countries on the rolls lined up on November 20 for the third episode of the SAF Games. For the first time in the history of these games the number of disciplines touched double figures. N.Annavi of India set up a new games record in high jump measuring 2.15 metres. Mohammad Rashid of Pakistan threw the Javelin to cover a distance of 71.92 metres. The two records are intact till date. In the women’s section India’s P.T. Usha set a new mark in 400-metre hurdles, clocking 57.18 seconds which has not been eliminated in the subsequent editions of the SAF Games. India reaped a rich harvest of medals in team events. Gold medals in all the events - kabaddi, football, basketball, table tennis (men and women) and volleyball were claimed by the Indians. In all India managed to top the medal tally for the third time in succession with 91 gold, 45 silver and 19 bronze. Pakistan got 16 gold medals while Sri Lanka won only four.
Pakistan’s capital Islamabad was the venue for the fourth SAF Games. The games were held there from October, 20 to 27 1989. The number of disciplines remained 10. Playing hosts, Pakistan improved it’s performance considerably taking its tally of medals near the 100 mark. It managed to win 97, including 42 gold, 33 silver and 22 bronze. India retained its supremacy in the medals count with a tally of 124, including 61 gold, 43 silver and 20 bronze. The Maldives failed to get any medal for the third time in succession. Several records went off the board especially in the athletic events. Many new records were created and some of them are still to be broken. These include the 110-metre hurdles record created by Ghulam Abbas of Pakistan, clocking 14.11 seconds, and the 3000 metres record created by Abdul Razzak, clocking a time of 8 min 42.43 seconds. The SAF games record of long jump (7.79 metres) was also created by Mohammad Urfaq of Pakistan during the Islamabad games. Vijay Amarsekhra — a woman athlete from Sri Lanka — set up a new mark in javelin throw by clearing 53.06 metres. Pakistan won the gold medal in football and volley ball whereas India won the gold in kabaddi and table tennis both men and women.
At Colombo in 1991, in terms of medal tally India took the top spot as it had been doing since the inception of the SAF Games in 1984. India went on to improve from 61 gold medals won at Islamabad to 64 gold medals this time. Sri Lanka earned 44 showing a marked improvement in the performance which had been seen their players win only six gold medals at Islamabad. Indian weightlifters did India proud by winning three gold, the same number of silver and bronze medals in each category. A significant feature of the Colombo edition of the SAF Games was that all but two swimming records were shattered in the women’s category. In fact swimming was dominated by Sri Lanka, in particular the cousins Jullian Bolling and Dipika Chanmugham. Between them they bagged 13 gold medals to rightly earn the titles of best sportsman and sportswoman of the games respectively. Sri Lankan women emerged winners of the volleyball event whereas women from Nepal bagged the title in table tennis. Pakistan won the gold medal in football leaving the basketball, table tennis (men), tennis (men and women) and volleyball gold for Indian players. Bhutan returned from Colombo empty-handed.
In 1993, Dhaka became the first country in the history of the SAF Games to play hosts for the second time. These games, originally allotted to Kathmandu, were staged from December 20 to 27, 1993. Eleven disciplines were held. History repeated itself. Like all previous occasions, India returned with a bagful of medals. Out of the 139 medals bagged by India, 61 were gold, 47 silver and 31 bronze. Bhutan and the Maldives could not win a single gold medal. In athletics Ranjit Subasinghe of Sri Lanka created a new games record by running 800 metres in 1 minute 47.56 seconds. India’s Bahadur Singh created a record by running 10,000 metres in 29 minutes 30.23 seconds. Moilly Chakoo of India ran the 3000 metres in 9 minutes 29.01 seconds. In the team championships Nepal and Sri Lanka won gold medals in football and men’s tennis respectively whereas Pakistan won the kabaddi championship and men’s volleyball gold. India bagged the team title in the events of table tennis (men and women) volleyball (women) and men’s table tennis.
The scene shifted to Chennai in 1995 where the seventh edition of the SAF Games was held from December 18 to 27 . A record number of 14 disciplines were included in the games. Silambam and kho kho were the demonstration games. A sum of Rs 240 crore was allotted as budget for the conduct of this mega event. Men’s hockey was included for the first time in the SAF games. India once again succeeded in taking a lion’s share of the medals. A notable feature of these games was that all the previous records in the men’s swimming except the one created in the 1500 metres freestyle event at Dhaka in 1993 by India’s J. Abhijit, were shattered and new records were created. All the record breakers were Indians barring Karan Mijanurrehman of Bangladesh who claimed the top honours in the 100 and 200 metres breaststroke events. Several landmark performances were recorded in the athletic section also. A Sri Lankan athlete set up a new games record in the 100 metres clocking 10.49 seconds whereas Sugath Tilakratne won the gold medal in 400 metres writing a new record. India’s Shakti Singh became the new record holder in the discuss throw event (57.78 metres). In the women’s section Sushantika Jaisinghe became the fastest runner of the SAF games consuming just 11.34 seconds to win the 100-metres event. She also created a meet record in 200 metres (22.95 sec.) India’s Shiny Wilson created history by beating the previous record in 400 and 800 metres, recording 52.12 seconds and 1 min. 59.85 seconds, respectively. Shabana Akhtar of Pakistan created a record in long jump (6.31 metres). India swept all the gold medals in team events, including the newly introduced event of men’s hockey.

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