Exploit sports to reap the maximum
Cricket fever was at its peak as
the ICC World Cup tournament concluded in Mumbai last night. What
matters is not winning or losing, but how one played the game.
In this scenario, we should reflect on the peaceful manner on how Sri
Lanka hosted its ICC World Cup tournament matches, including a quarter
final and a semi-final. While enjoying the game in its true spirit, we
remember with deep respect those great sons of our soil who made our
World Cup dream a reality.
Many foreign sports teams shied away from Sri Lanka in the past,
citing security reasons. Even when Sri Lanka won the World Cup in 1996,
Australia and the West Indies declined to honour their preliminary round
matches in Sri Lanka and even forfeited their match points.
There had been a couple of occasions where touring New Zealand
national cricket teams were obliged to abandon their tours here
prematurely due to bomb explosions. This included the horrific
experiences the Kiwis had when the then Navy Commander Clancy Fernando
was assassinated by a suicide bomber in 1992, within a stone's throw
from the five-star hotel where the touring New Zealand team was
To cap it all, the adverse travel advisories and reports against Sri
Lanka internationally nearly isolated the country and, moreover,
overseas sports tours were curtailed. Local sports officials had to
consider various factors before hosting an international tournament due
to the prevailing situation in the country at the time due to LTTE
Thanks to the unswerving efforts and the supreme sacrifices by the
Security Forces, each and every citizen of the country is now reaping
the rich dividends of peace. Sri Lanka's hosting of the ICC World Cup
2011 in association with India and Bangladesh was made possible chiefly
due to the peaceful environment that had been created by the Security
Forces under President Mahinda Rajapaksa's astute political leadership.
The world's cricket governing body - the ICC, did not permit Pakistan
to host a single match of the 2011 World Cup though it was the
subcontinent's term to host the event. The ICC ruled Pakistan out as a
host country, citing security reasons and only allowed Sri Lanka, India
and Bangladesh to do so.
In the event the Security Forces had failed to eradicate terrorism
and vanquish the Tiger leadership, the ICC would have dropped Sri Lanka
and the country would have lost its chance of hosting the 2011 World
It cannot be gain said that there is a passion for cricket all over
the subcontinent, but at the same time let's remember with profound
gratitude those who made our dream come true. What we all enjoy today -
socially, economically or otherwise, are due to the immeasurable
sacrifices made by Sri Lanka's valiant soldiers. Those true sons of our
soil, some of whom had paid the supreme sacrifice in the final stages of
the battle against terrorism, are no more. We also remember the families
of these great heroes.
Nevertheless, their memory is indelibly edged in our minds as the
island nation enjoys the prevailing peace.
At the time the last World Cup tournament was played in the
Caribbean, four years ago, Sri Lanka was gripped in a huge military
operation against terrorism and only a handful of people believed that
the President would transform the nation to its current status.
What Sri Lanka has achieved during the past four to six years was
inconceivable. At the last edition of the World Cup in early 2007, the
LTTE's fixed-wing aircraft caused mayhem in the city by dropping bombs
at the Kolonnawa oil installation and at the Muthurajawela oil facility.
At that point of time, the Security Forces were still battling in the
East, while taking on the LTTE which had the Wanni under its total
Although Sri Lanka qualified to meet Australia in the 2007 World Cup
final, the Lankan team was not in a proper mindset due to the adverse
LTTE campaigning at match venues apart from what had been taking place
back home. When President Rajapaksa was away in Barbados to witness the
2007 World Cup final between Sri Lanka and Australia, the local
authorities had no option, but to shut down the national grid for brief
spells due to LTTE air attacks.
In the run-up to the final, Amnesty International launched an
unsporty campaign on the alleged human rights violations in Sri Lanka,
targeting the Sri Lanka national team and this no doubt had an impact on
Four years after these macabre experiences concomitant with a
sinister campaign by a section of the international community, Sri Lanka
has beaten all insurmountable odds and transformed the country in to a
tourist attraction even bidding to host the 2018 Commonwealth Games
after the successful hosting of the ICC World Cup.
New sports stadia were built some two decades after Sri Lanka had its
first flood-lit cricket venue. It was under the direction of the
President that the new stadia in Suriyawewa and Pallekele and the
renovation of the R. Premadasa Stadium were made possible.
Barely anybody in their wildest dreams envisaged that World Cup
cricket would go to a remote village such as Suriyawewa in the
Hambantota district. However, Tharunyata Hetak founder Namal Rajapaksa
MP spared no pains to host World Cup matches there and eventually
fulfilled that dream to add Suriyawewa to the world sports map.
As former Commander of the 58 Division and Sri Lanka's Deputy
Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Major General Shavendra
Silva had said, the incident-free World Cup cricket matches here prove
in no uncertain terms the annihilation of Tiger terrorists. By a ghost
of a chance, had the LTTE retained at least one percent of its military
capability, it would have wreaked havoc during the recent World Cup
matches played in Sri Lanka.
Even a trivial incident could have caused embarrassment to the
country and strengthened the hands of those seeking to undermine the
post-war recovery effort. Moreover, the presence of the international
media in Colombo for cricket coverage consolidates the position.
Hosting events of this magnitude would undoubtedly further strengthen
Sri Lanka's image as an international tourist destination. We must take
into consideration sports economics and draw up an ambitious plan to
secure the maximum benefits in the tourism service sector at the
forthcoming South Asian Beach Games, Commonwealth Games, International
Rugby Sevens and home series against foreign cricket teams.