Sri Lanka’s Commonwealth bid sets sights on Africa

Thursday, 11 August 2011 00:30 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

Sri Lanka’s growing hopes to stage the 2018 Commonwealth Games could receive another boost this week with the arrival of an African delegation that will find common ground with what has been dubbed ‘the life-changing bid.’

The visit is the second in a series of regional inward missions by Commonwealth members ahead of the vote to decide the host city.  

The ‘island jewel of the Indian ocean’ is vying to become only the 10th country to host the Games in its 80 year history. Following praise from the Caribbean in July, Hambantota 2018 now hopes for support from a region that shares its sporting ambitions. Like Sri Lanka, no African nation has hosted the Commonwealth Games.  

Yet after the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa, the importance of major events on the plateau continent has gained much attention.  

The inaugural African Youth Games took place last year. And there is widespread sentiment that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) should award the Olympics to an African nation for the first time should one emerge as a candidate for 2020.   

Ajith Nivard Cabraal, Co-Chairman - Hambantota 2018 Organising Committee and Governor of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka, said: “Africa shares our vision for life-changing sport. Sport can be transformational, especially for children and young people. And a prudent approach to bidding for and hosting major events can be the catalyst for sustainable social and economic development. We think there are clear synergies in how we are harnessing the power of sport to build a better tomorrow for our people.” Earlier this year the Hambantota bid unveiled its Legacy Plan: ‘Enhancing Lives and Transforming a Nation.’  

It outlined how the tear-drop shaped nation will harness the power of sport and the benefits of becoming a host city across four inter-related legacy themes – sport, society, the environment and economy.  

Sri Lanka is seeking to double per capita income to in excess of USD 4,000 (GBP 2,500) by 2015 whilst sustaining its economic growth rate of circa eight percent per annum. Fast-developing Hambantota will be at the heart of such plans as one of five future ‘metro cities’ – economic hubs each with populations of approximately one million.

Governor Cabraal added: “For us there is much more at stake than simply tourism and revenue generation. As a unified nation Sri Lanka is on an exciting and progressive journey driven by its 10-year plan ‘Taking Sri Lanka to 2020.’ Bidding for and hosting the Games in 2018 is an integral part of this journey and will act as a catalyst in helping to achieve these ambitions – together.”

Commentators close to the bid process have installed Hambantota 2018 as a serious contender in recent months. They say the ‘explorer momentum’ in international sport – including the first World Cup on the African continent last year and the first summer Olympics in South America in 2016 – adds to the chances for what is a credible bid in its own right. It was in Africa itself where another major sporting event for 2018 was awarded to a ‘pathfinder’ territory last month; the IOC announced from Durban, South Africa, that Pyeongchang is to host the Winter Olympics. Now Sri Lanka hopes Africa’s 19 Commonwealth nations will have a hand in its own 2018 success.

Hambantota 2018 welcomes inward missions from Europe and Oceania next month before that from Asia in October. The host city will be announced at the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) general assembly in St Kitts & Nevis on 11 November 2011.