Performances at Sports Festival heartening
It was heartening to note the performance of our rural youth at the
XXX111rd National Sports Festival. The hidden talent at provinces were
exposed to the full during the meet, which has always provided a stage
for the talented youth to come to perform.
True that wet weather conditions did not provide the ideal conditions
for some of the events. Nevertheless, there were many record breaking
performances, a positive sign on the future of our sport.
But where are we going to head from here? That is where a big
question mark hangs. Each National Sports Association (NSA) should have
a program to groom the top performers at the National Sports Festival.
Be it in athletics, swimming or a team sport like volleyball, the NSA
should draw a special plan to groom the talent they identify at National
Sports Festival. Those who come to the limelight at the National Sports
Festival should be given incentives to sharpen their sporting careers.
In many countries, their National Sports Festivals are ‘the sporting
event’. Those generate tremendous excitement and enthusiasm that
overshadows all other events. Even in neighboring India, their National
Sports Festival is the biggest domestic sporting event which is eagerly
looked forward to.
Unfortunately, in Sri Lanka, there is less awareness and importance
to our National Sports Festival. Many think its an event of the Sports
Ministry and wash their hands off. True that it is the Sports Ministry
which conducts the National Sports Festival but all NSAs should take a
greater responsibility in giving more value to the mega event.
Our media too is to be blamed for the step motherly treatment meted
out for the National Sports Festival. It is a pity to note that most of
our electronic and print media organisations look at the National Sports
Festival in a different angle.
Those who lavishly allocate their air time or space in the sports
pages to even third-grade cricket matches and even cricket series
between minnows like Zimbabwe or Kenya, comparatively give less or
virtually negligible coverage to the National Sports Festival.
It is unethical to criticise those who are engaged in the same trade
but with due respect to my media colleagues, all what I intended to
emphasise is about our attitudes towards the National Sports Festival.
I feel media could play a greater role in promoting important events
of this nature. True that several newspapers and television channels
gave good coverage to the event. But that is not good enough to stress
the importance of a mega event of this nature. We should have given a
better coverage to create a greater public awareness and catch
That is how we could promote and popularise sport. That would also
give a better recognition to participants and their achievements. One
may think that is one small thing but we have to realise those small
things would go long way at times.
On the other hand, that would be a motivation for the participants
and for those who like to start a sports career. When such a great
volume to recognition is given, there would be more sponsorships that
would attract sports. That would also lead to create better employment
opportunities to those young boys and girls once they leave school.
Apart from the National Sports Festival, National School Games is the
biggest local sporting event. The National School Games would always
have the highest number of participants at a single sports event. That
is the breeding ground for outstanding young schoolchildren.
The Education Ministry should not confine its extra-curricular
activities to the National School Games alone. All encouragement should
be given to physical training instructors, teachers-in-charge of sports
and prefect of Games who work round the clock to promote sports in their
But on the other hand, the Education Ministry cannot play a lone
innings, unless they get the necessary backing from the Ministry of
Sports. There should be a greater understanding and co-ordination
between the two Ministries so that the sport could be the winner.
We still remember how successful the National School Games were at
the beginning. Then Director General of Sports at the Education Ministry
and present Vice President of the Athletic Association of Sri Lanka,
Sunil Jayaweera played a key role in the promotion of National School
Games in late 80s. His deputy Olivia Gamage too was another live wire.
But today, we lack people of that calibre, school officials who would
go that extra mile to promote sports.
The best place to pick talent is schools. The success of our 1996
Cricket World Cup triumph is due to the strong school cricket standard
we had in late 80s and early 90s. During that era, we produced some of
the top schoolboy cricketers. Our school cricket standard then was
considered one of the best in the world and even today, it is one of the
most organised set-up.
If we strengthen our school sports set up and give priority to the
National Sports Festival and National School Games, then it would not be
that hard to find hidden rural talent and groom them carefully for the
future. It is an investment for the future.