ISLAMABAD - The 33rd National Games Olympic torch was handed over to Inter Provincial Coordination (IPC) Minister Dr Fahmida Mirza in a ceremony held here at Pakistan Sports Complex, Jinnah Stadium on Tuesday.

Pakistan Olympic Association (POA) Vice President Syed Aqil Shah, who is also organising committee president, handed over the Games torch to the IPC minister, while athletes, dignitaries, PSB officers and others were also present there. IOA Secretary Rana Sarwar thanked the minister for sparing time and promised to conduct the Games in a befitting manner.

Dr Fahmida Mirza said: “Founder of Pakistan Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah was instrumental in starting the National Games and his golden motto ‘Unity, Faith and Discipline’ is very important for the entire nation. Every athlete has to adopt these things to promote harmony, peace and positive image of the country.”

When asked about JUI-F sit-in and whether KP and federal government have made plans to ensure safety of athletes and officials and is there any chances Games may be postponed, the minister said: “I think we must not spoil all the good work done by the KP government and POA for hosting the National Games after six years gap. We must unite for the national interests. The KP government is working very hard to host the Games in a professional manner.”

When pointed out towards hosting next National Games at Pakistan Sports Complex, Dr Mirza said: “We are upgrading our facilities with the help of Chinese government as they will help us in maintaining and up-gradating the PSB facilities. It is included in the CPEC and we are giving top most priority to lay down state-of-the-art turf at Jinnah Stadium and replace the outdated turf. All will be done and we are ready to host next edition in Islamabad.”

The groupings in the federations is a common practice while netball isn’t included in the Games, while at least three parallel federations - cycling, judo and athletics - will field their teams. On this, Dr Mirza said: “Politics must be kept away from sports. Those things, which fall in my domain, will be taken care and a prompt action will be taken care while I won’t interfere in the things don’t come under my domain. I will ask POA President Gen (R) Arif Hasan to ensure genuine federations must be given right and netball should be included in the Games.”

Earlier, the torch was handed over to Pakistan Air Force (PAF) envoy at Daman-e-Koh at 11:00am by Begum Ishrat Ashraf, Chairperson, Management Committee of Islamabad Olympic Association. Later, it was handed over to Navy at Faisal Mosque at 12:30pm, then Navy handed over it to Army at Traffic Signal F-8 at 1:30pm and it arrived at the PSB at 2:00pm, where Army athletes and officials were present in huge numbers. Then it was taken to Jinnah Stadium.

A slight change in the National Games schedule was announced by POA and KP government as earlier the Games were to start from October 26 to November 3, but now they will commence from November 9 and end on 14. The closing ceremony will be held on November 15. The events, venues and details of events, already notified, will remain unchanged.