Sri Lanka’s ambition to stage the 2018 Commonwealth Games could receive a further boost today with the arrival of a European delegation that will play a key role in the crucial vote that decides the host city in November.
As the race to host the event reaches its final stages, the Hambantota 2018 bid is looking to impress with plans described as ‘visionary, exciting and unique’ by the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) Evaluation Commission.
With Cyprus, England, Gibraltar, Guernsey, Isle of Man, Jersey, Malta, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales able to cast 10 votes between them, the visit is a crucial step in what has been dubbed the ‘life-changing’ bid, a statement by the organisers said.
Hambantota 2018 Organising Committee Co-Chairman and Governor of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka Ajith Nivard Cabraal said: “We look forward to welcoming our friends from Europe.
The delegation knows exactly what they are looking for. We will not only show them why the CGF Evaluation Commission concluded that we meet every single technical requirement, but also our vision for 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 the economy.
Sri Lanka is seeking to double per capita income to in excess of US$ 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 some one million.
Last week the CGF Evaluation Commission published its 144-page report on the two bidding cities: Australia’s Gold Coast and Hambantota. It concluded: “Hambantota presents an exciting opportunity for the Commonwealth Games to assist in the development of the city and the country in a substantial and impactful way.”
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.”
The visit is the third in a series of regional inward missions by Commonwealth members ahead of the vote to decide the host city at the CGF general assembly in St. Kitts & Nevis on 11 November 2011.
The island jewel of the Indian Ocean’s ambition to become only the 10th country to host the Games in its 80-year history has already received praise from the Caribbean and Africa. Next week it welcomes a delegation from Oceania ahead of a final visit from Asia in October.
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; the first summer Olympics in South America taking place in Rio de Janerio in 2016; and the 2018 Winter Olympics heading to Pyeongchang – adds to the chances for what is a credible bid in its own right.