Subas Humagain, Kathmandu
Despite the new government taking office in Nepal three weeks ago, the Ministry of Youth and Sports remains unfilled. This lack of appointment is a concerning sign that the political parties are disregarding this ministry, which is frequently utilized as a way to meet quota requirements for ministry allocation. There is no second thoughts that the sports industry is being neglected, as those who exploit sports for political purposes have ultimately decided to overtake other ministries.
Despite a widespread passion for sports among the public, the government has failed to prioritize sports in its formation and planning. Sports possess vast economic, social, and cultural potential, but these opportunities remain unfulfilled due to a lack of serious consideration from policy makers.
Despite being overlooked in Nepal, the country’s potential in sports has not gone unnoticed by the international community. During a recent two-day visit to the country, Samantha Power, the head of the US Agency for International Development (USAID), prioritized sports in her itinerary by participating in two different sports programs. This was the highest-level official visit from the US in 20 years, and Power’s emphasis on sports highlights the significance and potential of the country in this sector.
On the day of her arrival, Power played basketball with the girl’s team of Adarsh Vidyalaya in Bhaktapur. USAID partnered with the local community to rebuild the school that was damaged in the 2072 earthquake and to double the number of students who could study there. Power, who visited the school after the reconstruction, used the opportunity to connect with the students through games. Making sports a means of connecting among the young generation, she also discussed with the students about their future plans and goals.
On the second day of her visit, Power was eager and active. She kicked off Wednesday by joining world champion runner Meera Rai for a 2-kilometer run in Jagdol Danda, Kapan. After completing the run, Power explored the possibility of linking sports with tourism in Nepal through discussions.
Power emphasized that sports not only promote tourism but also create jobs and contribute to economic development. ‘Today, I learned something that I never thought possible which is that there are people who live in the world who prefer running uphill to running on flat surfaces. I am amazed by the person named Mira who has this preference for running uphill rather than on flat surfaces and so do her incredible young mentees.’
‘I had a great time on the trail and although I struggled in some parts, I could see the incredible beauty of trail running. It has a lot of potential to complement Nepal’s other great tourist attractions and we are excited about it,’ she added.
Power emphasized that sports not only promote tourism, but also create jobs and play a role in economic development. ‘When we think about how to provide more job opportunities, spur economic growth, and economic development, we like to work with people like Meera and Raj, a tourism entrepreneur, to grow the tourist industry and attract more people from all around the world to the jewels of Nepal, including trail running,’ she explained.
‘We believe that tourism, especially eco-tourism, has massive potential right now. Currently, tourism makes up about 8% of Nepal’s GDP, which could be a much larger share in the future.’
Power added that USAID will try to ease the difficulties faced by the people of rural areas of Nepal. ‘One of the things that Mira was was sharing up above was a difficult Village. Life can be particularly with more variable and unpredictable weather patterns, so finding a way to diversify Nepal’s economy, USAID working in support of the dynamic actors, who are trying to build out these new attractions for tourists from all around the world. That seems like a really good direction to go in,’ she explained.
When asked why Mira Rai is happening when there are other sports and players available in Nepal, his answer was,’Well, Mira is a legend. She’s famous all around the world, and she also has an incredible role model for not only young women in Nepal, but young women all around the world. So I really didn’t want to come to Nepal without meeting Mira Rai. I feel I feel very privileged to have had the chance to run with Mira as well.’
Power further emphasized that tourism can be promoted by investing in various fields through sports. ‘With the incredible mountain and peaks, Nepal already attracts tourists who want to to do climbing. But there are tourists, who don’t even know that trail running is a possibility that other forms of sport can be developed here.’
‘So whether it’s alerting the private sector to the chance to come in and invest with local Nepali entrepreneurs or getting word out about the beauty about the cultural heritage about the new sports possibilities. Again, we say, sky’s the limit,’ she ended.
Meera was ecstatic to have opportunity to run with Power. “I feel I am representing whole of sport here. I take this as a great opportunity. I am excited to work with those who are involved in sports tourism. I would like to thank USAID for coming to our area. I am also grateful for creating this opportunity,” Mira said.
During her brief trip to Nepal, Power placed a strong emphasis on creating her activities around sports. However, the Nepalese government has not put much effort into promoting sports activities, both in terms of budgeting and planning. This lack of attention to sports has limited their development and is likely the reason why the sports sector in Nepal has not been able to reach its full potential. The hope lies with the new leadership, which must at least give consideration to this important area.