Nepali Times
Pokhara as a sports hub


Pokhara has taken advantage of its spectacular setting to develop a tourist industry and lately it has become an educational and medical centre as well. Now, the city is destined to become a sports hub too.

Pokhara is already on the world marathon map with the gruelling Round-Annapurna Race and the annual Pokhara City Marathon which is scheduled for 18 February with many foreign participants. The city is also the venue for the annual Himalayan Golf championship and last month an international paragliding tournament was held here. Pokhara's sports aficionados say there is a huge untapped potential and they are determined to hold more games here to attract more national and foreign sports people and fans.

"We can promote water sports on Phewa Lake and we are hoping to revive the triathalon and traditional archery competitions we used to have here," says Tej Gurung of Pokhara's Sports Forum.

The problem had always been the lack of facilities and a proper stadium. The existing stadium has been used as a test-driving site by motorcyclists and as grazing grounds for cattle. Now, with local and international support, the stadium is getting a perimeter wall and an ambitious upgrading plan.

The stadium has an ideal location near the city centre and a scenic backdrop of the Annapurnas. The local organising committee was at first daunted by the budget of Rs 10 million, but the support from Pokhrelis living abroad and foreign donors has been so overwhelming that Rs 7.5 million has already been raised. Even the National Sports Council has chipped in with Rs 1 million.

With the perimeter wall in place, the stadium will be hosting next month's Sahara Club South Asian Football tournament. Local hoteliers, whose spirits have been dampened by the drop in arrivals after the end of the ceasefire are pinning their hopes now on Pokhara emerging as destination for sports tourism.

Pokhara tourism entrepreneur Sundar Kumar Shrestha says: "Because Pokhara is a tourist destination we already have international standard hotels and that is why we can attract international class sports events too." Shrestha says Pokhara's climate and setting is also ideal for one-day international cricket tournaments.

Vortex for paragliding

The Seventh International Paragliding Championship in Pokhara 19-23 January brought more than 60 participants from 19 countries, including 11 from Nepal. Participants took off from Sarangkot and had to land accurately on the shore of Phewa Lake.

The five-day competition has been organised by the Pokhara chapter of the Trekking Agents Association of Nepal for the past seven years and has given Pokhara's tourism a big boost. This year's first prize went to Russian Dmitri Oli, Adam Hill of Britain who runs Pokhara's famous Sunrise Paragliding school came second and Nepal's Rajesh Bomjon was third.

An indication of the importance that the government attaches to developing Pokhara as a sports tourism destination was the presence of tourism and civil aviation minister, Yankila Sherpa, to give away prizes.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)