Hambantota CWG 2018 Bid Committee says thank you to all who supported

Monday, 5 December 2011 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

The Bid Organizing Committee (OC ) for the Hambantota Bid for the Commonwealth Games in 2018, has gratefully acknowledged the support and encouragement of 27 nations who voted in favour of the City of Hambantota’s bid to host the Commonwealth Games in 2018.

The OC has also expressed its appreciation of the support rendered by a vast number of organizations, corporates and individuals who supported the bid in numerous ways.  

Although the bid did not achieve the desired objective of winning the rights to host the 2018 Games, the bid created a significant tangible and intangible positive impression about Sri Lanka. In particular, it displayed the country’s ability to formulate and carry through a complex concept, successfully. It also inspired the nation and improved the country’s rehabilitation and reconciliation process.  Further, it served to showcase and fine-tune the country’s ambitious 7 year plan to develop sports in the country.

In fact, such outcomes prompted the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) to describe the competition between Hambantota and Gold Coast as one of the most exciting contests in its history, stating: “Hambantota 2018 was unable to tip the balance in its favour,butfor the unified nation and its 20 million people, the process of bidding for the Games itself will see history in the making”.

The positive attributes of the bid also helped to develop Sri Lanka’s vision and plan for the new Information Technologycum University City in Hambantota, which plan wasfurther improved and refinedthrough the close scrutiny of the plan by the CGF Evaluation Commission.  In addition, Sri Lanka’s tourism received a significant boost because of the positive worldwide publicity that the country received as a result the bid.   The bid alsoenhanced the credibility ofthe country, as a result of the many favourable endorsements it received from a large number of sporting economic and political personalities from across the world.

Towards realizing these major benefits, the Sri Lankan Government’s investment has been around a modest US$ 1million only, withthe balance investment in the Bid of around US$ 7 million, having been contributed and committed by the private sector, who undoubtedly realized and appreciated the widespreadmacro benefits that would arise from such a bidding process.

  In that context, it would also be notedthat the Bid demonstrated a successful private public partnership which could perhaps be a model for other similar projects as well.  The private sector participation ranged from direct financial contributions to discounted and gratis servicessuch as architectural,management, accounting, accommodation, travel, etc.,to logistical, IT, telecom services, as well as to the direct participation at the many events connected with the bid.  The private sector’s contribution was particularly strong during the final election phase at St. Kittsand Nevis, where, a large number of private sector business leaders physically participated, together with several of the country’s top media persons, sportspersons, celebrities, entertainers,musicians, and highly qualified and experienced culinary artists.

The final thrust at St. Kitts was led by, the Minister of Sports, Hon Mahindananda Aluthgamage and the Governor of the Central Bank, Ajith Nivard Cabraal who served as the Co-Chairmen of the Bid Organizing Committee while political representation from the HambantotaDistrict, Hon. Namal Rajapaksa  and the President of the Commonwealth Games Association (CGA) of Sri Lanka, Mr. Hemasiri Fernando provided keen support.  

In addition, severalother key Government officials,the GA for Hambantota, Sports Administrators, IT Specialists, Architects, Event Organizers, Airline Crew,a Medical Doctor,Foreign consultantsand the necessary support staff provided the different services required to carry out a complex bid of this nature.

In that context, it may be useful to recall that the bid covers not just the Games and sports, but also 14 other varied themes, all of which are given high priority by the CGF and the CGAs.

In the run-up to the final phase, and in the face of a very strong bid from Gold Coast, the Bid Organizing Committeealso had to deal with, and respond to, a few contentiousissues as well.  

These included the claim made by some persons that Sri Lanka does not have the financial capacity and sports experience that a highly developed, sports-oriented country like Australia possesses. It was also pointed out that Australia had vast experience in staging Games of this magnitude, and thereforesuggested that Gold Coast was “event-ready” in sports infrastructure, while Hanbantota had to build its infrastructure over the next few years, and that posed a risk to the Games.

Hence, a differentiation strategy had to be implemented by the OC to promote the Hambantota bid, by showing that the hosting of the Games would provide an opportunity for rapid economic development, reconciliation, and nation-rebuilding in Sri Lanka.

 The OC also contended that the bid and hosting of the Games in Hambantota wouldpromote equality and inclusiveness within the Commonwealth nations, andsuggestedthat it is now time for the Commonwealth to promote more opportunities in newly emerging countries, in keeping with their stated objective of encouraging equality, humanity and destiny withinall Commonwealth nations.  The OC also reiterated that theoverall impact of the Games being held in Sri Lanka will be far greater than if the Games were held in Australia, which contention too, was quite favourably received by many nations.

The OC further explained that the CGF and CGAs choose a city for the Games with a lead time of 7 years because they give high weightage to the capacity of a city to “get ready” in the ensuing period, instead of being too strongly guided as to whether a City is currently “event ready” to host the Games.

In addition, in all its presentations,the OC, stated that hosting the Games could be described as a life-changing opportunity for any Host Country, and that both Gold Coast - Australia and Hambantota - Sri Lanka have acknowledged that hosting the Games will be a life changing event for each city and country.  

In that context, the OC reminded all CGAs that, up to that time, Australia had hosted 4 Commonwealth Games, and hence benefitted from four “life changing”opportunities, and therefore invited the CGAs to give Sri Lanka its first opportunity in 2018.

Through these and other arguments, the OC attempted to convince the voting Commonwealth Games Association (CGA’s) vote for Hambantota, while also reaffirming at all times, the commitment and capacity of Sri Lanka to host the Games in a professional manner, and to deliver Games on time and on budget.

In the final analysis, it was clear that these submissions of the OC had an impact on many CGA members, although collectively it was not sufficient to give Hambantota the required majority to win the bid.

Accordingly, whileHambantota, Sri Lanka received 27 votes, Gold Coast, Australia received 43 votes and won the hosting rights.  Nevertheless, Sri Lanka’s effort was hailed as a remarkable and outstanding bid, and received positive publicity from global sports administrators, world media and others.  

In conclusion, the OC wishes to record with satisfaction that Hambantota’s unique Sports City has now been hailed as a “blue print” for future sports cities in the world, and as a highly practical and outstanding concept, bythe CGF Evaluation Commission.  

Such a public acknowledgement could pave the way for future international level Games to be organized and hosted in Hambantota and in Sri Lanka. Hence, the OC wishes to recommend to the Government, that efforts be pursued in the future to enable Sri Lanka tobenefit by the economic and sporting benefits of being acknowledged as a nation that is seriously supporting sporting activities in the world.

It may also be useful to note that Sports has been estimated as a US$ 242 billion per annum industry, which is why many countries today complete fiercely to give themselves increasing proportions of that massive economic activity. In that connection, the comments ofthreepersons connected to the bid in different ways, maybeworthy of reflection and repetition.

Firstly,the comments of the outgoing CGF President, Mike Fennell, who stated that, “Hambantota was a very strong bid … This time Gold Coast was successful, but I hope Hambantota considers bidding again …“.  Secondly, the remarks of Queensland Premier, Anna Blighwho summed up the Hambantota bid, by saying, “Twenty-seven countries in the Commonwealth believed Hambantota was the best bid, and I think that’s a great credit to them”.  

Thirdly, a quote from Malaysia’s Prince Tunku Imran, the new Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) President who said: “Sri Lanka has demonstrated quite clearly that a country like Sri Lanka does have the capability of hosting the Games.

As a Federation, we have to encourage others by convincing them there are real benefits of hosting the Games.”