The Josh Games 2011 opened at the Islamabad Sports Complex on Friday amid colourful cultural dances and music. The opening ceremony featured young artists from Chitral, Ghizer, Hunza, Gilgit, Balochistan, Sindh and Punjab.
The athletes, male and female young and senior citizens and special persons, seemed tired after their long journeys by bus; however their spirits were high. The games have people participating from as far away as Chitral, Gojal-Hunza and Ghizer in the north to Balochistan and remote areas of interior Sindh in the south of the country. More than 600 athletes are participating in events like cricket, men and women football championship, netball, table tennis, badminton, judo karate and TaeKwan-Do. The games are part of the international games held in 2008 to celebrate Golden Jubilee of the enthronement of Prince Karim Aga Khan as spiritual leader of Ismaili Muslims, and are being organised by The Aga Khan Youth and Sports Board for Pakistan (AKYSB-P). Participants of all ages were present at the Jinnah Sports Stadium.
Earlier in her opening remarks, AKYSB-P Chairperson Shams Jeewa said the objective of the games is “to explore the talent of the youth and spread smile and love in this period of gloom and violence”. She stressed that the point of the games is to create unity and harmony among the various cultural entities and regions of Pakistan and to promote connectivity and networking. Iqbal Walji, president of the Aga Khan National Council for Pakistan, echoed a similar sentiment, “We aim to focus on sportsmanship and the ethics of sports alongside physical participation. We should foster cultural diversity, pluralism to inculcate challenging and leadership qualities among the youth.”
Walji declared the games open amid thunderous applause and slogans of “Josh”.
The opening ceremony Children clad in colourful and traditional dresses, children from Chitral, Hunza, Sindh, Balochistan and Punjab danced to the tunes of dadang, suranai, damal, Sindhi alghoza, and banjo, enthralling the audience. As balloons were raised in the sky, a seven-athlete torch relay took place. The seven athletes who lit the torch are stars in their respective fields. Rahimullah, who is associated with Special Peoples Association and has been awarded a gold and silver medal in Athens Olympics, lit the torch. Naimat Karim from Ghizer District is a national champion of rowing sports and also received a silver medal while representing Pakistan internationally.
Saher Zaman from Hunza has been representing Pakistan women football team since 2007. She represented the team in Young Rising Stars Club in the US, the 11th South Asian Games in Dhaka and in India in the 10th South Asian Women’s football.Javed Karim from Gilgit represents Pakistan’s TaeKwon-Do team and been a national champion since 2005; he has won a silver, Malika Noor from Hunza is a two-time top goal scorer in National Women’s Football Championship and is a three-time national gold medallist.ilver and three bronze medals in international championships. Nosherwan from Khanabad in lower Hunza coaches TaeKwan-Do for AKYSB-P and is a certified national and international official of TaeKwan-Do. Rehmat Jan from Gilgit Danyor, who has been a TaeKwan-Do representative since 2001, has won three international bronze medals and took the torch to the stadium.
Five events were held on the opening day. Youth aged 16 years and above participated in different games including 100-metre, 400-metre, and 1,500-metre races. Long jump, badminton and table tennis matches were also held on Thursday. Senior citizens also participated in a 100-metre race and 400-metre walk. People with disabilities participated in the 25-metre race. All participants were selected on an equal opportunity basis, the organisers said. The games will continue till November 20.