Sports in a mess
Sri Lanka sport is currently experiencing a bad period with no signs
of a possible recovery in the near future. From the sub-continent's
glamour sport of cricket to our widely spread and only Olympic medal
winning sport of athletics, everything seems to be in a mess.
While the problems in cricket went from bad to worse, followed by a
humiliating innings defeat in the second cricket Test in New Zealand,
the appointment of new executive committee of the Athletic Association
of Sri Lanka (AASL) has been challenged in Courts by the unsuccessful
presidential candidate Dervin Perera.
Accordingly, an injunction order has been served on the new AASL
Ex-co, headed by the Minister Janaka Bandara Tennekoon. While the
administration battle in cricket has gone to courts, a similar power
struggle is emerging at the track and field headquarters.
Apart from cricket, there are four more interim councils amongst
other sports without a mandate from member clubs and associations. In
the 'so-called' well-organised aquatic sports body, there are empty
coffers with regular begging for funds from the Sports Ministry.
They are not ashamed to tell that they run from 'borrowed funds' and
that the Sports Ministry should reimburse them.
Which national association would pray for an interim council to take
over the functions of their executive committee? Believe it or not,
there is just a solitary one, which internally begs for funds from the
This shows how good their administrative skills are and how well they
have marketed their sport to secure sponsorships. But the biggest joke
is that such a bunch of inefficient officials, who eternally point their
fingers at other sports associations, have requested for the management
of the Sugathadasa Stadium swimming pool.
The problems in Sri Lanka sports continue from cricket pitch to
athletic track, to the swimming pool and to the rugby scrum. Bad
management has made the governing body for the sport played with an oval
shaped ball, a white elephant. True that they have a green elephant on
their jersey as a crest, but it has now become white after that infamous
Rs. 7.5 million 'loss' (or 'unaccounted for, whatever they call it).
All these sports have vital international assignments ahead - 2007
Cricket World Cup, 2006 South Asian Games and 2006 Rugby Asiad in Sri
Lanka. Hence, it is high time for Sri Lanka sports to get out of the
present mess. Local standards in several other sports too have
deteriorated significantly and Sri Lanka sport is currently experiencing
one of its most unfortunate periods both on and off the field.
With no signs of a scheduled start of the official pool practices for
the 10th South Asian Games in Sri Lanka, we are getting closer and
closer to the South Asian version of the Olympics.
When we last hosted the South Asian Games, way back in 1991, Sri
Lanka underlined it's supremacy with a rich haul of 44 gold medals,
including 15 in athletics.
One wonders whether we could ever go closer to that, even after 15
years. There is no point in spending millions and going ahead with some
makeshift preparations. There are no crash courses to success, which
could only be tasted with hard work and dedication. Unfortunately, our
officials have not understood that.
The Indians were nowhere near our track supremacy at the 5th South
Asian Games and could not produce an IAAF World champion or and Olympic
medallist, until our own Susanthika Jayasinghe achieved both those
But India worked with a vision and a mission with a long-term plan.
Unlike in Sri Lanka, there were no interruptions to Indian sports
development program, irrespective of change of Governments or change of
their athletic officials. That was because they had a greater national
interest and did not believe in cheap publicity for personal glory.
"Make Mother India proud!" has been their motto, irrespective of
their political, social or club affiliations.
We are not telling that there is no club politics in India. Being a
developing country in South Asia, the typical political roles are common
in India too. But the difference there is that none of them would
deviate from their national sports policy to play to the gallery.
Do not be surprised if India makes a clean sweep at the next year's
South Asian Games in Sri Lanka. They have been working hard with a
vision and the emergence of long jump champion Anju George is just one
indication what the Indians have in store.
Definitely, there are many more emerging champions in India who are
set to blossom at the right time.
In the meantime, we continue to boast of the handful of international
class athletes we have with no solid program to groom stars for the
future. We could learn many lessons from India because they have similar
political and social culture to that of ours.
But the Indians beat all odds to reach their target with a broader
We have been talking of a national sports policy for several years.
One wonders whether it would continue to be a proposal forever!