many of you will know I have spent the last few months absorbed in managing
Nepal's first participation in the Winter Olympic Games. It was an extreme
experience in many different ways. Of course it was an enormous honour
to walk behind our national flag at the opening ceremony in Salt Lake
City. And to see the joy on my son's face as he paraded it before millions
of people watching the event live across the world brought tears to my
eyes. I am sure there could be no prouder moment for any father. But the
reality of international competition at this level provides many other
equally intense experiences.
The Olympic Games is a hugely important event. It
provides every qualifying nation with a shop window to display the character
and quality of its people to the world. Those athletes who cheat and use
drugs to enhance their performance will bring shame upon their people.
And those athletes and officials who attend the games for personal amusement
without any serious intention to do their best or help their nation will
also reveal something rotten about their culture. But those who work with
dedication and strength to achieve honest success will always bring honour
to their nation. These are the true Olympians and by common consent of
the international media I am proud to report that Nepal was firmly placed
within this category.
Our athlete did not win any medals in the field but Jayaram Khadka
certainly won the won the hearts of many in his struggle against adversity.
No other Olympian in history seems to have improved his personal best
as much Jay did in the 10km Classic Cross Country Ski Championship at
Soldier Hollow on the 14th February. By improving his official record
at that event by more than 500 points he almost certainly set a new Olympic
record. And no other Olympian has ever competed with less experience in
his discipline. Jay had no more than six weeks training on cross-country
skis before the Games and his coach had even less. Over the past four
seasons he had been extensively prepared in Alpine skiing which involves
completely different equipment, techniques and race patterns. But because
of a serious knee injury in training he had to qualify in a completely
new sport that was unaffected by it. It is such stories that bring magic
to the Olympics and a source of inspiration to millions of young people
across the world. And when Jay hugged the exhausted athlete from Cameroon,
whom he had just beaten after an epic duel for last place, the television
commentators described the gesture as 'the essence of the Olympic spirit'.
I can only hope the whole nation was as proud as his father and coach
was at that special moment.
But the benefits of Olympic participation run much
deeper than promoting national image. By introducing the concept of a
new sport to our region, many investors and officials have been encouraged
to realise the potential of developing facilities in Nepal. At Salt Lake
City our delegation met senior International Ski Federation personnel,
experienced ski course designers and builders and a number of important
financiers. We were able to outline and progress a project for development
that could realise the highest altitude ski training centre in the world.
High altitude specialists have dominated these Olympic Games and many
leading teams will be keen to take advantage of any facilities that we
can provide to improve the performances of their athletes. And whilst
snow conditions are deteriorating in Europe and America through the effects
of global warming, they are actually improving in our region. Now it is
a question of galvanising support and co-ordinating an international effort
to see cross-country ski racing evolve in the Himalayas. Hopefully Nepal
will be the first country in the region to take advantage of this new
interest. Certainly the National Ski Team and I will do everything it
can to promote such development.
The Salt Lake Games also provided greater experience
for our national sports administration. The Winter Olympics are quite
unlike the Summer Games in many respects. The need for extensive equipment
and technical backup is extremely important in ski racing where the lives
of competitors are constantly at risk. Properly experienced and fully
professional officials are therefore needed to support our winter sports
team and, as a direct result of these Games, the National Olympic Committee
has proposed several important administrative changes that will greatly
assist our participation at the Asian Winter Olympics in Japan next year.
Three Nepali athletes are currently in training at our base in France
and we are confident that our team will perform with great honour on that
I know that such things may appear small and petty
when set against the tragedy of civil war in our nation. And it was not
something that the team was insensitive about. The entire Olympic delegation
was grief stricken over the massacres at Achham district that occurred
on the very eve of our last competition at Soldier Hollow on 19th February.
After the deaths of nearly 150 servicemen and civilians that night, Jay
was extremely reluctant to race and his spectacular fall at the last bend
only added to an enormous sense of misery that hung over the team that
day. But each of us must struggle on with our lives in spite of such tragedy.
We owe it to all those who have fallen in this terrible war. Jay was persuaded
to overcome his grief and convert it into an even greater determination
to serve his nation. Hopefully his achievements went some little way towards
lifting our spirits and helping us all cope with these tragic events.
my best wishes to you all,