Sri Lanka's crowning glory
Sri Lanka shot into prominence when boxer Manju
Wanniarachchi won a gold medal at the Commonwealth Games which concluded
on Thursday in New Delhi.
He eloquently rewrote Sri Lanka's sports history on Wednesday
afternoon by winning the men's 56kg bantamweight gold medal at the
Talkatora Indoor Stadium in the Indian capital. The final was a keenly
contested tussle for supremacy and the Lankan lad eventually out-pointed
Sean McGoldrick of Wales 16-14 to open a new chapter in Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka last won a gold medal in boxing at the Commonwealth Games,
then known as the Empire Games, in Sydney way back in 1938. It took Sri
Lanka 72 years to win its next gold medal at the Commonwealth Games
until Wanniarachchi broke the hoodoo.
Sri Lanka had set high hopes in boxing at the last Olympic Games in
Beijing, 2008 but unfortunately lady luck was not on the side of the
local lads. There was strong criticism, most of it sans any weight and
loaded with malice. Nevertheless, the man who has been playing the role
of Godfather in Sri Lanka boxing for many years - Dian Gomes, Sri
Lanka's former boxing chief, as a true sportsman, was determined in
He vowed to bounce back in a couple of years and today, all the hard
work of Sri Lanka's boxers, coaches and boxing officials has borne
fruit. Wanniarachchi's win would pave the way for a new era in Sri Lanka
boxing. His win would no doubt inspire more and more youngsters to take
to the ring sport and Sri Lanka's chances at the Olympic level in future
too would be much brighter.
Wanniarachi's golden feat would add more weight to Sri Lanka's bid to
host the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Hambantota, which has already been
selected as a venue for next year's ICC cricket World Cup.
Hosting a top level international sporting event of this magnitude
could soon be a reality with the infrastructure development in the
South, especially in the Hambantota District. With Sri Lanka reaping the
dividends of peace and marching towards new economic horizons, sports is
one area which could be effectively used to strengthen ethnic harmony
and national reconciliation.
It is indeed heartening to see the keen interest taken by young
parliamentarian and former Sri Lanka Youth rugby captain Namal Rajapaksa
to promote Sri Lanka as an international sporting destination. Due to
his indefatigable efforts the next edition of the ICC Cricket World Cup
will go to Hambantota and similarly, Sri Lanka could be successful in
its bid to host the 2018 Commonwealth Games.
A few years ago, barely anybody in their wildest dreams would have
guessed that World Cup cricket would ever come to a remote hamlet such
as Hambantota. But young Rajapaksa was convinced that Sri Lanka could
make it if there was a will and commitment. The newly constructed
Sooriyawewa International Cricket Stadium, which has been ratified as a
host ground of the 2011 ICC World Cup was a result of his courageous
The Maagampura International Harbour will be commissioned mid next
month and construction work on the new Mattala International Airport is
already under way. With such a high level of infrastructure development,
Hambantota will have more credentials to become a host city for the
High profile sports events such as the ICC World Cup and the
Commonwealth Games would definitely attract more tourists to the
country. Already, there has been an unprecedented increase in the number
of tourist arrivals and this would hit an all-time high this year. The
resplendent beaches in the South and those in the Eastern and Western
coasts are now attracting a record number of tourists.
This would pave the way for big fortunes for those engaged in the
travel industry, which suffered a setback when LTTE terrorism was at its
peak. Empty tourist hotels are now a thing of the past as many travel
guides and tourist promotion organisations have strongly recommended Sri
Lanka not only as one of the most sought-after tourist destinations but
also as an ideal film location against the backdrop of a natural
Apart from the tourist industry, international sports activities also
came to a virtual standstill due to LTTE terror. Teams from New Zealand
were obliged to call off their cricket tours to Sri Lanka midway. Even
Australia and the West Indies refused to honour their 1996 World Cup
matches in Sri Lanka due to security concerns.
Gone are the days when tourists fled the country leaving even their
personal belongings and sports teams abandoned their tours to Sri Lanka
due to bomb explosions in Colombo and elsewhere in the island.
All Sri Lanka's achievements have been made possible due to the
untiring efforts of our Security Forces. They beat all insurmountable
odds at great sacrifice to vanquish Velupillai Prabhakaran and his
blood-thirsty terror outfit. Above all, the Security Forces had the
right political leadership, which had been a tower of strength at all
Had it not been for President Mahinda Rajapaksa's far-sighted
political vision and his sincere desire to liberate Sri Lanka from the
plague of terrorism, the freedom one enjoys today would not have been a
reality. President Rajapaksa spared no pains to beat all overwhelming
odds in Sri Lanka's relentless battle against terrorism. He proved to be
a true father and an inspiring leader to the soldiers in the
Thanks to his exemplary leadership and laudable international
relationships, Sri Lanka accomplished its battle against terror. At a
time when most cities the world over, especially those in Europe and
South Asia, face the risk of terror attacks, people in Sri Lanka are
enjoying the dividends of peace to the optimum.
This jubilation is evident not only in tourism or sport but also in
all other spheres. Mega development projects are being implemented at a
rapid pace and the country's economy is thriving with all-time high
foreign reserves apart from the per capita income doubling during the
past five years.
The time is opportune for all Sri Lankans, irrespective of caste,
creed or political affiliations, both here and abroad, to make whatever
contribution they could towards the nation's forward march.