|Thursday, 8 August 2002|
Red letter day for our sports when PM opens Asian C'ships
by Dinesh Weerawansa
It will be a red letter day in Sri Lankan sports history when Prime Minister Ranil Wickremasinghe opens the X1Vth Asian Athletic Championships at the Sugathadasa Stadium, Colombo this evening.
This will be the largest ever sporting ever to be held in Sri Lanka with teams from 40 countries, numbering 855 members.
A capacity crowd is expected to fill the country's premier track and field venue to witness the three-hour long colourful opening ceremony, which promises all the glamour and excitement. This is bound to be the best ever such event in the Championship history and the spectators are assured of a memorable night.
Chief guest, Prime Minister Wickremasinghe and Madam Maithree Wickremasinghe are due to arrive at the venue at 6 p.m. and will be received by the chairman of the organising committee and the Minister of Youth Affairs & Sports, Johnston Fernando and Mrs. Fernando. The parachute display by the Sri Lanka Air Force at 6.15 p.m. will be followed by the marching in of the teams participating at the Colombo championships from today to Monday (12).
Nagaligam Ediriweerasingham and Susanthika Jayasinghe, who will carry the Asian Championship flame to the stadium and will light up the torch of the X1Vth Asiad. At the auspicious time of 7.28 p.m., Prime Minister Ranil Wickremasinghe will declare the championship open after addressing the gathering. Susanthika Jayasinghe and P.H.D.Waidyatillake will then take the oath on behalf of the athletes and officials respectively.
In the climax of the day's proceedings, the spectators are out for a grand blend of cultural events, music, laser show and the best ever fireworks to lit up the Colombo skies. Taking the traditional Sri Lankan culture to the Asian Championship will be several cultural troops, depicting the host nation's 2,500-year-old proud culture and heritage.
Among the other eye-catching events lined up for the day are gymnastics and rhythmic gymnastics displays, a combination of traditional Sri Lankan, Indian and moderns dancing items. The cultural presentation will be followed by the musical show and a modern laser display.
The organisers have requested the spectators and guests to reach the venue early to avoid the last minute rush. The arrival of spectators and guests starts at 4.30 p.m. and they will be greeted with a special one-hour pre-show, which commences at 4.45 p.m. When the atmosphere of the Asian Championship opening ceremony is talked about, none can not forget the man who gifted the re-developed Sugathadasa Stadium, Sugathadasa Indoor Stadium and swimming pool and the Khettaranma Stadium to the nation - the late President Ranasinghe Premadasa.
It was under his dynamic leadership that Sri Lanka hosted its previous biggest sporting event - the Vth SAF Games at this same venue in 1991.
Eleven years later, the Prime Minister Ranil Wickremasinghe has given the state patronage to host one of the best Athletic Championships in Colombo. A big tribute should also go to Minister Johnston Fernando and AAA President Sunil Jayaweera who worked tirelessly to make the championship a success.
Among the special guests gracing opening ceremony would be the President of the Asian Amateur Athletic Association, Suresh Kalmadi, AAAA Secretary General Maurice Nicholas, Ministers, Parliamentarians and other distinguish guests.
The competition schedule will commence tomorrow from 9 a.m with the women's hammer throw final as hundreds of Asian star athletes go in search of 'gold'. Hosts Sri Lanka has high hopes as they host the championship for the first time and it is going to be the best ever track & field treat for local sports fans.
Produced by Lake House