A tribute to the iconic BMICH

Thursday, 21 June 2018 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}


Celebrating 45 years of excellence!


The Bandaranaike Memorial International Conference Hall, as its name denotes, was built to honour the memory of S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike, the Prime Minister of Sri Lanka from 1956 to 1959. 

As the Chinese Prime Minister Chou En Lai said, the BMICH is also a symbol of the friendship between Sri Lanka and China, as a mark of their respect and admiration for Bandaranaike and after him, Sirimavo Bandaranaike and as a symbol of the ideals to which they were committed.

The Bandaranaike International Memorial Conference Hall – the biggest conference venue in South Asia – was ceremoniously opened on 17 May 1973 by the late Sirimavo Bandaranaike. 

Commemorating 45 years of distinguished service to Sri Lanka and the world over, the BMICH is today widely regarded as one of the finest venues to host any event of national and international importance. 

The BMICH – A regal history

The history of the BMICH dates back to the early seventies. The concept for this grand venue first emerged during Sirimavo Bandaranaike’s visit to China, when she met the Chinese Prime Minister Zhou En Lai. 

Having asked Sirimavo Bandaranaike what China could do for Sri Lanka to mark the memory of the late S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike, Sirimavo. Bandaranaike replied stating that Sri Lanka needed an internationally-acclaimed conference hall. Built at a cost of Rs. 35 million at the time, the Bandaranaike Memorial International Conference Hall was also a monument to the friendship and cooperation of the people of Sri Lanka and those of the People’s Republic of China.

Construction commenced officially on 24 November 1970, inaugurated by the then Prime Minister of Sri Lanka Sirimavo Bandaranaike as well as Pieter Keuneman, Minister of Housing and Construction and the Ambassador for the People’s Republic of China in Sri Lanka.

The octagon-shaped, marble-paved building was completed in the first quarter of 1973, more than three months ahead of schedule. The construction work on the land of 42 acres in extent was the product of joint Sri Lanka and Chinese workmanship. Both sides worked together in coherence and understanding, which was an exemplary of international cooperation. 

A masterpiece by itself

A considerable portion of the exquisite building materials were imported from China. These include a wide range of marble in delicate tints and hues, terrazzo tiles and mosaic tiles. These materials were blended together in what is acknowledged to be an outstanding architectural creation.

The main entrance of the assembly hall was designed by specially selected Chinese artists and craftsmen. Local Sinhalese architectural features were emphasised on certain parts of the building and were adorned with fresco paintings and relief sculpture symbolising the national culture and traditional art and crafts of Ceylon.

The epitome of perfection

The main octagonal shaped building comprises of the main hall, delegates lounge, banquet hall and press lounge. An important feature of the Main Conference and Concert hall was the inclusion of an ‘Orchestra pit’ along with the platform for concert performances.

The Main Conference and Concert hall was developed with a range of modern facilities, in keeping with the challenges of new technology and advance in the organising of International conferences. Facilities for simultaneous interpretations in seven languages, sound reinforcements, lightening installation, television rooms for rebroadcasting and sound recording were included.

The BMICH also holds office rooms which have been rented to tenants, an area for function rooms where technical facilities are available, a secretariat area, a restaurant and a bedrooms area, 35 venues – 23 indoor and 12 outdoor.

Following the completion of work at the BMICH, the first conference to be held there was the International Rubber Conference organized by the Rubber Research institute of Ceylon held on 22 June 1973. 

Ever since 1976, when the fifth Non-Aligned summit was held in Colombo and the national flags of 96 states fluttered at its premises, the BMICH has had great leaders like Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt, Sukarno of Indonesia and Josef Broz Tito of Yugoslavia grace its halls. The BMICH further boasts of having hosted several well- known international conferences and conventions like SAARC and CHOGM summits.

In time, the premise of the BMICH incorporated a separate educational centre - the Bandaranaike Centre for International Studies. Further propagation included an information centre for conferences, a museums, travel and tourist services, banking and exchange facilities, dining facilities and vast parking spaces among other facilities. 

Its two Museums heed back to the times of Prime Minister S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike and Sirimavo Bandaranaike, while the Bandaranaike Centre for International Studies provides valuable programmes of study for academics, public servants and all with an interest in international affairs and foreign languages.

The BMICH is managed by the S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike National Memorial Foundation established on 4 February 1975 under an Act of Parliament.

Expanding testaments

Although many events from far and wide had been held at the BMICH since its inception in 1973, it proposed numerous concerns for exhibitions and related large scale events as it had been primarily built for hosting international conferences and conventions. 

With this notion followed a further addition by the Chinese Government and its people to the BMICH, which is significantly in memory of the late Sirimavo Bandaranaike. Located within the vicinity of the BMICH and built at a cost of Rs. 500 million at the request of the then President and current Chairperson of BNMF Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunge, the Sirimavo Bandaranaike Memorial Exhibition and Convention Centre was officially opened in April 1973. 

The newly-built exhibition centre was specifically built for the purpose, with ample space to hold large-scale events. The centre comprises two exhibition halls, the larger of which covers an area of 2000 square metres and the smaller one an area of 1,100 square metres. The centre has seen a vast contribution to promoting Sri Lanka as a destination for meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions (MICE) tourism. 

Local weddings, family gatherings and corporate festivities have also taken place at the BMICH, broadening the approach of its significance as the celebration central in Colombo. 

The latest addition to this prestigious venue is the eco auditorium ‘Mihilaka Medura’ which replicates traditional Sri Lankan village life. At the centre of this eco premise lies ‘Kamatha’ – a venue which can host performing arts. Though in the heart of Colombo, it has been composed without any impairment to the aesthetics of the original building. Set in the backdrop of Kamatha, the open air theatre is ready for performances. 

The BMICH – a way of life

“The BMICH is a fitting tribute to a once great prime minister and, to this day, remains the premier location for conventions and events of this grandeur,” said BMICH Director/Chief Executive Sunil Dissanayake. “We believe that the BMICH is not merely a building, it is a society and a way of life – a philosophical approach that seeps down from the very beginning; the time which resonates the goodwill of the late S.W.R.D. and Sirimavo Bandaranaike.”

Dissanayake, elaborating on the 45th anniversary of the BMICH, also went on to say: “The success of the BMICH since its inception is inspiring. We are proud to mention that the BMICH has obtained four awards in the recent past, namely The Century International Quality ERA Awards where the BMICH received a Gold accolade in Geneva in 2016 and a Platinum accolade in Paris in 2017. We also obtained the South Asian Travel Award for the Leading Meeting and Convention Centre in 2016 and 2017. We have been nominated for the 2018 South Asian Travel Awards as well, which I am certain we will proudly collect.”

Its capacity to host large numbers, its amenities that includes star class catering and state-of-the-art technology, its spacious proposition with its sprawling lawns and expansive surroundings makes the BMICH a superb venue for any type of event. Host to some much loved exhibitions and a long list of international and national conferences, it remains to this day the premier venue for any big event in Sri Lanka.