Around 74 cyclists are expected to participate in the Tour de Galyat National Cycle Race, which began on Tuesday from its starting point at the Pakistan Sports Complex.
During the two-day race, cyclists will ride to Nathiagali via Abbottabad.
Minutes before starting his journey Mohammad Younis Baloch, who is competing from Balochistan, said: “I’m so happy to be among the contestants. Our country is full of talent, but we need proper patronage.” He added that the race would promote a softer image of the country.
The championship has been organised by the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) Cycling Association, in collaboration with the Tourism Corporation of KP.
Speaking at the opening ceremony, Federal Minister for Interprovincial Coordination Riaz Hussain Pirzada commended the athletes participating in the race.
However, Mr Pirzada admitted that little has been done for athletes in Pakistan. “We have very limited sports facilities,” he said, but added that efforts were being made to improve the sports sector using the funds available.
He said that KP was full of talent but has been fighting the menace of terrorism. “There are two international factors, one is talking about religion and one is projecting democracy, but both are responsible for spreading terrorism in our country, particularly in KP,” he said.
The minister said that investing in sports was the most sustainable way of eliminating extremist tendencies. He said that certain elements have provided terrorists with Kalashnikovs so they may spread terrorism in the province. “Instead of providing Kalashnikovs, the youth should be provided with bicycles,” he said.
Amjad Afridi, adviser to the KP chief minister, called on the federal minister to provide each participant with one bicycle each. To this, the minister said his ministry did not have the funds to provide bicycles to 74 cyclists. He said that he would instead move a summary to the prime minister for a special grant. “If the funds are granted, we will provide bicycles to these athletes,” he said.
Pakistan Cycling Federation Secretary Azhar Ali Shah said the federation has taken several steps to promote cycling in the country. Pakistan Sports Board director general Dr. Akhtar Nawaz Ganjera was also present on the occasion.