Kathmandu, Nepal, December 3, 2019: Jeevan Ram Shrestha, the mastermind behind the 13th South Asian Games, has no time to relax. The Nepal Olympic Committee President’s mobile is constantly ringing and he is putting out fires, or rather delegating the solutions to others, as he tries to take a short break to talk to the Olympic Council of Asia. Shrestha, who is also the President of the South Asian Olympic Committee – the regional governing body – is smiling on Tuesday despite having to troubleshoot for, on the first day of competition after the Opening Ceremony, Nepal bagged 15 gold medals. “It has been a wonderful start for us. We are on top of the standings,” grins Shrestha as he settles down for a quick chat. It might not matter if powerhouse India overhauls the host nation during the 10-day showpiece which ends of December 10 because, for a brief period, Nepal was top of the standings. And if Shrestha and his Olympic Committee have their way, the 13th South Asian Games in Kathmandu and Pokhara could well be the coming out party for the country’s athletes when historians look back at the progress of Nepal sport in the future. “We want to use these Games as a platform for our athletes to develop. At the moment, apart from India, we are on par with the rest of the countries in South Asia. The next target is to be competitive at the Asian Games, and then the big one, the Olympics,” says Shrestha, laying out the blueprint. With an eye on the Hangzhou 2022 Asian Games, Nepal is fielding a largely young group of athletes in all 26 sports taking place over the next few days. The hosts have already reaped a rich gold haul bagging seven golds each in taekwondo and karate on Monday. The 15th gold medal was won by Sony Gurung who became the first Nepalese gold medallist in triathlon at the South Asian Games. “It is very promising for the future. What is also pleasing is that we are fielding a large female contingent which is significant with the Olympics now placing a lot of emphasis on gender equality,” Shrestha pointed out. Shrestha hopes the feel-good factor of winning medals will not only help sport but also give the wider public a boost. “This a perfect opportunity to promote the country. Next year is ‘Visit Nepal Year 2020’ and we hope that these Games will raise the profile of our country, our cultural heritage, the natural beauty of the land of the Himalayas, and lastly the warm hospitality of the Nepalese. “Sports has the power of bringing joy to the people and with it we also want to showcase Nepal to the world,” Shrestha adds. His mobile rings again. The interview is cut short. He has another fire to put out.