Controversy has always dogged Nepali sports and the preparations for Sydney 2000 is no exception. This time, the debate is regarding the size and composition of the Nepali contingent. There are four times more officials than athletes. The latest score is five athletes, one coach and 20 officials. (For comparison, the Sri Lankan delegation consists of 19 athletes and 11 officials.)
Except for five athletes and the single coach, all the others going to Sydney are administrative staff from the Nepal Olympic Committee (NOC) and the Nepal Sports Council (NSC). The NOC and NSC don\'t have any explanation, although they have tried to justify it by saying that the officials are needed for "administrative reasons\'.
The real purpose seems to be tourism. Particularly striking is the fact that there is only one coach. Rukma Shumsher Rana, president of NOC, says the composition of the contingent was decided by the NOC after discussions with the NSC. "We decided to take one coach because we had only one coach in the last Olympics," Rana told us.
Nepali sports officials have said time and again that the most important thing is to take part, not to win. That certainly holds true for this delegation: bureaucrats are not going to win any medals. There is also a row between Rukma Shumsher and Binod Shankar Palikhe for leadership of Nepal\'s Olympic squad. Palikhc, as NSC member-secretary, is chef de mission for Sydney 2000, but he says all his powers have been given to Anil Sharma, NOC member.
Rukma Shumsher insists that NOC hasn\'t overlooked Palikhe. "Since the Finance Ministry released the money at the last minute on Thursday and there was little time left, NOC was given the responsibility," he said. But according to rules, it is NSC which has to take charge.
One thing is clear: the row between NSC and NOC is now public. And another bone of contention is the daily allowance for athletes. Initially, Rukma Shumsher and NOC general secretary, Dhruva Bahadur Pradhan, were to receive $100 each and other officials, including Palikhe, were to get S22.5, while the athletes, had been allocated a mere 58. After the athletes refused to accept the meagre allowance, it was increased to $17.50, just a day before the team left for Sydney on 11 September.
The Finance Ministry released Rs 3 million for the trip, but Rukma Shumsher says this amount is not enough and says NOC will have to dip into its kitty for another Rs 350,000. Sources at the Ministry said Rs 8.9 million was released for Crown Prince Dipendra and his entourage of five, which left for Sydney on 10 September.
All this bickering over money would have been fairly normal by Nepali standards. But what has suffered is the morale of the athletes. On Friday, 5,000m runner Gyan Bahadur Bohara was practising in the army ground instead of the synthetic track of Dasharath Stadium because it was closed. Shooter Bhagawati K.C. has a six-year-old rifle to compete with in Sydney. Fill Friday, athletes hadn\'t got their shoes and track suits.
So, what will the Nepalis do in Sydney? The athletes will make their appearance in the stadium, gain some exposure. And for the rest of those in the stadium, some sightseeing and lots of Foster\'s lager. It is sure that they won\'t be coming with the medals, but there will certainly be a lot of baggage.