PESHAWAR: The people of Peshawar were treated with well-deserved respite from their daily toil as Japanese wrestlers slammed each others opponents onto the canvas of the wrestling ring set up at Qayum Sports Complex.
“Such exchange programmes need to continue in the future to strengthen the relations of the two countries. I will tell my countrymen that Pakistan is a safe country for sports,” Inoki told The Express Tribune during the curtain raiser of the championship event which begins on Thursday (today).
Inoki and his team of wrestlers have been invited to convey a message of peace, which has remained elusive in the face of an ongoing militant insurgency in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.
In addition to the wrestling matches, traditional Khattak, Chitrali, Mehsud and Batani dances were performed along with paragliding feats. Traditional games including Peto Garam and Guli Danda were also part of the attractions.
A wrestler even joined the Khattak dance team during their performance, which reflected K-P’s rich cultural diversity. Provincial Sports Minister Syed Aqil Shah reciprocated the gesture by dancing along too.
“It is an honour for the province to host international players. This shows people love peace and condemn terrorism,” said Information Minister Mian Iftikhar Hussain, who was the chief guest at the event.
“We will continue our struggle to provide a peaceful environment for local and foreigners wanting to come here. And sport is one of the ways to achieve our goal for a better future.”
Around 62 players along with officials from India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Afghanistan will participate in the two-day Bacha Khan International Wrestling Championship on Thursday.
Inoki told the crowd this is his fourth visit to Pakistan and that he will always remember the warm welcome and hospitality extended to him, especially from the people of K-P.
Inoki first visited Pakistan in 1976 to compete with Pakistani wrestlers Muhammad Ali and Akram Pehlwan. He gained widespread recognition after injuring Ali’s hand during a match.
His subsequent visits were in 1979 and 1984.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 6th, 2012.