Sunday, 3 October 2010

Pakistan weightlifters threaten boycott

Angry Pakistan weightlifters threatened a Commonwealth Games walkout after an embarrassing opening ceremony scuffle saw a top official snatch his country's flag from a national sports hero.

Chef de mission Mohammad Ali Shah insisted on carrying the flag at the head of the team parade during Sunday's showpiece instead of the country's celebrated former gold medal weightlifter Shuja-ud-Din Malik.

Pakistan weightlifting manager Rashid Mehmood said the team had considered a boycott in protest at the humiliation suffered by Malik, a gold medallist at last Games in Melbourne four years ago.

"It was a shameful act because holding the flag was Malik's right and it was decided before the Games that Malik would carry the flag in the opening ceremony," said Mehmood of an incident witnessed by 60,000 people inside the stadium and a worldwide television audience of millions.

"It was an embarrassment for Pakistanis all around the world as television showed the name of Malik on the telecast under a picture of Shah carrying the flag and we considered a boycott but decided against it."

Aqil Shah, vice-president of the Pakistan Olympic Association, added: "I was shocked to see the chef de mission holding the flag.

"Holding the national flag is always the prerogative of an athlete and that's decided before the ceremony.

"I was the chef de mission of the Pakistan delegation on various occasions and never tried to hold the flag in the opening ceremony, because it is the right of the athlete. This controversy should have been avoided."

Former hockey star Shahnaz Shaikh has demanded an inquiry into the controversy.

"I was shocked to see Shah snatching the flag from weightlifter Shuja Malik and carrying it. It was unacceptable and I demand an inquiry against Shah."

Reports in Delhi said Pakistan Olympic Association president Arif Hasan had intervened to avoid a boycott by the weightlifting team.


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