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MEDIA RELEASE

SRI LANKA’S COMMONWEALTH BID SEEKS RUNS ON THE BOARD WITH FIRST INWARD MISSION FROM THE CARIBBEAN

26 July 2011 – Sri Lanka’s bid to host its first Commonwealth Games can be the catalyst for bringing the prestigious event back to the Caribbean for the first time in over half a century, Hambantota 2018 Organising Committee Co-Chair Ajith Nivard Cabraal said today.

Cabraal, also Governor of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka, is driving the ‘island jewel of the Indian ocean’s’ bid to become only the 10th country to host the Games in its 80 year history.  His comments came as he welcomed Commonwealth Games Associations (CGAs) and affiliate bodies from a region that itself has only hosted the Games on one occasion: the 1966 Games in Kingston, Jamaica. It is the first in a series of ‘inward missions’ by Commonwealth members ahead of the vote to decide the host city at the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) general assembly in St Kitts & Nevis on 11 November this year.

Now a bid described as ‘visionary, exciting and unique’ by CGF Evaluation Commission chair Louise Martin, may provide a blueprint for others in the 71-nation Commonwealth to follow.  The Caribbean delegates visiting Sri Lanka this week will already relate to the country’s island charm; how its passion for cricket is turning to a wide range of other sports; and its plans to identify and train talented athletes from a young age.

“We are delighted to welcome our friends from the Caribbean to Sri Lanka and are looking forward to coming to St Kitts & Nevis full of hope later this year,” said Cabraal.  “We have long shared a passion for cricket.  You think of Antigua’s Sir Vivian Richards, Andy Roberts and Richie Richardson.  Sir Garfield Sobers, Sir Frank Worrell, Sir Clyde Walcott, Sir Everton Weekes, Gordon Greenidge, Joel Garner and Malcolm Marshall from Barbados.  And of course Cardigan Connor as ‘chef de mission’ for Anguilla’s Commonwealth Games team in 2002.

“But we also share an island culture and a passion for sport in general.  Now we want to share our enthusiasm for these Games and show that other countries can get involved.  Our bid will not only make a huge difference for our unified nation.  It will give huge encouragement to the other 61 nations that have never hosted the Games and may wish to do so – including those from the Caribbean.”

Cabraal believes hosting the Games will see Sri Lanka stake claims for medals in the same way the country has done extraordinarily well in cricket.  Admitted as a Test-plating nation in 1981, Sri Lanka won the World Cup just 15 years later (1996) and finished runners-up in both 2007 and earlier this year when Hambantota itself staged two matches.

“It shows the talent is there but we just need a little inspiration and organisation,” he added.  “This is one of the main reasons behind our bid.  This is an extraordinary opportunity to get our young people energised in sport in general.  We look at Malaysia; prior to hosting the Games in 1998 Malaysia’s medal tally was four per Games but has risen to about 35 since.  An extraordinary change has taken place as a result of hosting the Games; that’s what we want to emulate.”

Such ambitions are supported by the launch of a new seven year national plan created by the Ministry of Sports and reflected in the country’s hosting of the South Asian Games in 2016, which means all venues and supporting infrastructure planned for the 2018 Commonwealth Games will be in place two years ahead of time.

Australia (1938, 1962, 1982, 2006) and Canada (1930, 1954, 1978, 1994) have hosted the Games four times; New Zealand (1950, 1974, 1990) three times; England (1934, 2002) and Scotland (1970, 1986) twice; and Wales (1958), Jamaica (1966), Malaysia (1998) and India (2010) once.  With Scotland hosting Glasgow 2014, a Hambantota 2018 Games will install Sri Lanka as the 10th country in an expanding list that would have added three ‘new’ hosts in the space of two decades.

The CGF’s Evaluation Commission visited Hambantota last month and plans to issue its report by 11 October one month ahead of the general assembly.  For more information on Hambantota 2018 visit: www.hambantota2018.com

-ENDS-

Notes to Editors

The Caribbean delegation to Sri Lanka’s Hambantota 2018 bid included representatives from:

•         Commonwealth Games Association of Anguilla
•         Antigua & Barbuda Olympic and Commonwealth Games Association
•         Bahamas Olympic Association
•         Barbados Olympic Association Inc.
•         British Virgin Islands Olympic Committee
•         Dominica Olympic Committee
•         Grenada Olympic Association
•         Jamaica Olympic Association
•         St Kitts & Nevis Olympic Association
•         St Lucia Olympic Committee
•         St Vincent & The Grenadines