Asian delegation in town for Hambantota bid

Saturday, 8 October 2011 00:03 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

A delegation from fellow Commonwealth countries in Asia has arrived as Sri Lanka looks to secure further support for its ‘life-changing’ Hambantota 2018 bid to host the Commonwealth Games.

The visit is the last in a series of regional ‘inward missions’ ahead of the crucial vote next month to decide the host city for 2018.  

It coincides with the first South Asian Beach Games, hosted by Sri Lanka in Hambantota from 8-14 October.  

The delegation will today attend the opening ceremony which promises to be typical of the nation’s vibrant culture and passion for sport.

The timing gives the unified nation and fast-developing ‘new’ city the ideal opportunity to showcase its capacity to host an international, multi-sports event as it seeks the backing of the other seven Commonwealth nations in Asia.  

Those visiting will also have one eye on the 2016 South Asian Games, likewise taking place in Hambantota.  Dubbed ‘a date with sporting destiny’, it means all venues and infrastructure planned for 2018 will be ready two years in advance.   

Everything other than the Velodrome is being developed regardless of the outcome of the bid.  And major infrastructure developments are already taking place including a new sea port, international airport, high capacity public transport system and new road network.  

Also already under construction is the futuristic ‘Sports City’ that will feature 90 percent of the venues and facilities for the 2018 Games.  Underpinning what the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) Evaluation Commission heralds as one of ‘the most compact Commonwealth Games concept designs ever developed’, it sits at the heart of Sri Lanka’s wider legacy ambitions.   

The development is being integrated with education infrastructure to help keep talent and tuition fees within the country.  It will house two universities specialising in sports, business and media; a Business Enterprise Park; and IT Park.  And as a new model for world sport it will help Sri Lanka to attract a wide-ranging programme of international events; the Hambantota 2018 Organising Committee’s vision is for a full sporting calendar to please fans long fanatical about cricket and now embracing a host of other sports.

Now Hambantota hopes Bangladesh; Brunei Darussalam; India; Malaysia; Maldives; Pakistan; and Singapore can have a hand in building this legacy, just as they have a hand in its emblem.

Ajith Nivard Cabraal, Hambantota 2018 Organising Committee Co-Chairman and Governor of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka, explains: “The Hambantota 2018 emblem features eight pairs of hands in the colours of the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF).  Each pair of hands is pressed together, palms together and fingers pointed outwards.  This symbolises Añjali Mudrā, the hand gesture practiced throughout Asia and the continent’s eight Commonwealth members; it has the same meaning as the customary spoken Sanskrit greeting Namaste. This embodies our bid.  It is not just an emblem but a promise we keep both to the CGF and visitors to our unified country; that we will extend the hand of friendship to all.  Just as we do this week as we welcome our friends from Asia who can be a key part of – and share – our legacy.”

Described as ‘visionary, exciting and unique’ by the CGF Evaluation Commission, Hambantota has since wowed ‘inward missions’ from the Caribbean, Africa, Europe and Oceania.  

On visiting the country last week the latter declared that an ‘excellent and competitive’ bid had given them ample food for thought despite reports in July suggesting they had agreed long ago in October 2010 to vote as a block for the other contender, Australia’s Gold Coast.

The delegation from Asia is in Sri Lanka until 10 October.  There will then be just one month until the CGF chooses the host city at its general assembly in St Kitts and Nevis on 11 November 2011.