An argument for the Hambantota Games, from Namal Rajapaksa
My friend Arzu has asked why her native Azerbaijani government is building Olympic stadiums while people need basic services, jobs and, while you’re at it, human rights. In Sri Lanka a friend asked me something similar. Why are we bidding on the next next Commonwealth Games, an exercise that cost India around $13 billion. And what about the elephants?
The last Commonwealth Games in Delhi went a whopping 3,700 percent over budget and still was a PR disaster, with reports of child labor, unsanitary swimming pools and constant corruption. Now Sri Lanka is bidding for the privilege. Unlike India, however, we’re bidding to have the games somewhere completely rural (Hambantota) where any investments in infrastructure would go to waste.
Quite frankly, the best thing about the Hambantota area is the wildlife, especially in Yala. It is that wildlife that would suffer from major infrastructure development (and a sudden influx of tourists) and conservationists have already alleged that elephants would be driven away to make room for the games.
Why Sports, And Why Now?
It is good to get Sri Lanka out there in a positive way, but we have been doing nothing but struggling publicly with sports administration. The Sri Lanka Premier League has been an expensive disaster (is it happening or what?) and the cricket board is in dire straits. Given that construction is notoriously corrupt, it’s not genius giving billions to a sports administration that has already wasted millions.
I wouldn’t go so far as Arzu does since Sri Lanka actually could use a PR boost. That said, given the prior cost of the games to India (both in money and reputation) and the current shambles that is Sri Lanka’s sports administration, this probably isn’t the best time. I love Sri Lanka, but I kinda hope we don’t get the Commonwealth Games.