On Sporting Events And The Public

With ever dwindling entertainment outlets, mega events like the Pakistan Super League (PSL) are eagerly awaited, but the PSL always leaves much to be desired and contemplated about in terms of organization abilities. 

On Sporting Events And The Public

“Sometimes I wonder whether the world is being run by smart people who are putting us on or by imbeciles who really mean it”—Laurence J. Peter

Sports are excellent for the physical and mental health of a nation. All around the world, governments arrange such activities ensuring that the youth participate with full vigor. Stadiums, gymnasiums, clubs etc. are established and events are held to encourage people to not only play and compete but to enjoy as spectators. In fact, even in Pakistan, there should be greater emphasis on outdoor physical activities with good sized playgrounds in every locality of the country where the young ones can derive energetic benefits in a clean and secure environment. As it is, there are very few means of entertainment for the youth therefore provision of recreational facilities should be a basic necessity and an integral part of all town planning projects. 

Besides improvement in general health of the people, holding sports events can also generate plenty of economic activity thus giving businesses an opportunity to thrive. A surge in the number of spectators as well as visitors means that both the retail and service sectors would obviously be in great demand. This also entails development of infrastructure and increase in the means of public transport that could be beneficial once the occasion ends. International events allow foreigners to interact with the people, learn about their culture, relish the different cuisines, take a peek into local shops, go for city tours and perhaps purchase some interesting handicraft items.

More than what ambassadors can achieve, these are opportune moments to spread know-how about one’s country. 

Without compromising the immense advantages associated with hosting and conducting major sports contests, one cannot deny some of the disadvantages that the public gets to face, especially if the venue happens to be the historical city of Lahore. One can argue that residents should feel proud that their city is destined to attract world attention therefore they must readily bear any inconvenience as a result of all the commotion consequent to traffic diversions and closure of certain roads. Ask those who happen to live in the close vicinity of these places. They are forced to undergo hardships as their homes get barricaded because of police personnel posted around them who make their lives miserable by stopping and inquiring about their presence in the area. 

The few days of festivities can become a source of immense discomfort for all denizens. In the name of security, a tight protocol for international players commuting from one end of the city to the stadium and back to their hotel means that an already overwhelming traffic is diverted to take different routes causing side roads and by-lanes to block, especially around schools, colleges and hospitals. There may be a segment of population enjoying the games but there is a much larger chunk that has ends to meet and practically no interest in the ongoing pandemonium. Members of this group are too engrossed in going about their daily affairs. Professionals have their appointments, doctors their emergencies and surgeries, employees their offices, students their institutes, daily wage earners their work. Any hindrance in their daily commute can be most irritating and can also cause a lot of anxiety, perhaps even immense financial loss.

The question arises, how these disturbances can be avoided while simultaneously holding large scale sporting events, especially in a city crowded with all types of vehicles and people? 

In the first place, the venue where hundreds of thousands of spectators are expected, should be in the outskirts of the city so that there is plenty of space for parking. In the case of Lahore’s Gaddafi Stadium, one can argue that it was already outside the main hub of the city, but has now become enclaved by fast growing adjacent neighborhoods. Fair enough! In this case then the best way out, particularly for the safety of players, is to construct a five-star hostel facility within the premises to not only accommodate them but also to free the public from road blocks while they are transported eight to nine kilometers amid high security.

In the absence of such a facility, the best way out would be to use armored or bomb-proof vehicles for transferring players if there is so much stress on their smooth transportation. Here is where bad city traffic handling is the reason why extraordinary precautions need to be taken for protocols. Had licenses been issued on merit, had the people been apprised of proper traffic rules and those found violating traffic laws duly punished, there certainly would not have been the necessity to empty the main arteries forcing commuters to block the narrow lanes in search of short-cuts. In civilized countries while driving on the roads one hardly comes across VIP movements as everyone is observing rules without noticing any major distraction unless there is some on-going construction work.

To alleviate the sufferings of people located in the vicinity, special passes or car stickers should be issued to them so that they are not scrutinized each time they move to and from their homes. Without taking them into confidence and providing them proper alternate arrangements, organizers should not contemplate mega events. After all, there is something as rights of neighbors without whose support one cannot expect coordination. Of course, noise and lights are something that people living in the adjoining areas would have to tolerate during the course of events. 

With fewer entertainment outlets, mega events like the Pakistan Super League (PSL), which is a men’s Twenty20 cricket league in which six city-based franchise teams participate with great enthusiasm, are eagerly awaited. PSL is the brainchild of the Pakistan Cricket Board and was founded in 2015. This has proven to be an important venture leading to the discovery of and nurturing of budding cricket players while also becoming a treat for cricket fans, hungry for quality matches. Besides, being a huge and expensive sport event, it is also vital for bringing in the much-needed finances to cater for sportspersons and sporting events. There have been so far eight boisterous seasons but each time, it leaves much to be contemplated about in terms of organization abilities.

The writer is a lawyer and author, and an Adjunct Faculty at the Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS), member Advisory Board and Senior Visiting Fellow of Pakistan Institute of Development Economics (PIDE)