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Wednesday, 9 November 2011

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C’wealth Games in Hambantota looks increasingly brighter

Sri Lanka’s chances of hosting the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Hambantota looks increasingly brighter as the 2018 Candidate City from Southern Province opened its hospitality suite at Marriot Resort in Basseterre, Saint Kitts yesterday.

The architectural model of the proposed new sports city in Hambantota was the cynosure of all eyes and compared to its rival Australia’s Gold Coast, Hambantota 2018 cabin attracted more visitors on the first day itself.

That included the Commonwealth Games Federation CEO Mike Hooper. Sri Lanka National Olympic Committee President Hemasiri Fernando too is using his good office to woo votes for Sri Lanka.

Adding colour to the well-presented Sri Lankan hospitality desk were former Sri Lanka cricket captain Aravinda de Silva, Commonwealth Games silver medalist Sriyani Kulawansa, national women’s badminton champion Achini Ratnasiri, popular actress turned politician Anarkali Aakarsha and last year’s Miss Sri Lanka for Miss Universe Stefanie Siriwardene.

World record holder for most number of Test and ODI wickets and spin wizard Muttiah Muralitharan is scheduled to join his former Sri Laka team mate De Silva to lobby for Hambantota 2018 Bid.

Sri Lanka contingent for the CGF session arrived in the Caribbean’s island country of St. Kitts on Sunday after a strenuous 23-hour journey via London on a special charter flight offered by the national carrier Sri Lankan Airlines, a sponsor of the Hambantota 2018.

Charming airhostesses from Sri Lankan Airlines greeted visitors to Hambantota 2018 suite with a truly charming Sri Lankan smile. Members of the Sri Lanka contingent in St.Kitts and Nevis have been hard at work, performing their respective roles as sporting ambassadors to keep Hambantota’s chances alive.

Co-Chairman of Hambantota 2018 Bid Committee and the Governor of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka, Ajith Nivard Cabraal looked highly confident with only three days to go for Friday’s decisive voting.

The recent strike by Australia’s national airline Qantas, which embarrassed the host nation during last month’s Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM 2011) in Perth, has set a major setback to Gold Coast’s bid with many fearing a similar disruption in air travel in case they win the bid.

The scheduled departures of at least 17 Heads of State after the CHOGM 2011 were affected by the Qantas strike and the Australian authorities were compelled to make personal apology.

Meanwhile, Canada’s Bruce Robertson, the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) vice-president, had claimed that the vote on who will stage the 2018 competition presents a difficult choice for members with Hambantota presenting a strong bid that would well match Gold Coast. But Hambantota 2018 stands a better chance after President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s inspiring speech at a sports breakfast of the CGF held on the sidelines of the CHOGM.

While appreciating Australia’s contribution towards the success of the Commonwealth Games, President Rajapaksa said that hosting the Commonwealth Games in Hambantota will be a ‘life changing event for many Sri Lankans’ and that would also inspire 45 other nations who have never hosted the Games.

Of the 71 CGF countries which would be eligible for a vote each at Friday’s decisive voting, a minimum of 36 are needed to secure the right of hosting the 2018 Commonwealth Games. Sri Lanka, which started slowly, has made a steady progress in winning the confidence of the Commonwealth member countries and Hambantota 2018 team is confident that they could secure a majority at the voting. The next Commonwealth Games will be held in Glasgow in 2014 and Hambantota 2018 is eagerly awaiting to grab the next chance by polling over 36 votes.

Though Glasgow won the right to hold the Games at a CGF meeting in Colombo with a good majority of 47 votes to 24, many independent observers feel that Friday’s voting is going to a close battle.

 

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