Mahaweli Games attract more athletes | Sunday Observer

Mahaweli Games attract more athletes

A cultural dance that will be part of the Mahaweli Games
A cultural dance that will be part of the Mahaweli Games

The Mahaweli Games which is essentially meant to foster sports among the children of farmers, will once again be held for the 33rd time on September 7 and 8 at the Bisopura ground in Madirigiriya.

Some of these athletes who won in these Games have gone on to represent Sri Lanka in international meets. One such athlete was Sriyani Kulawansa and in recent times it was shot putter Sumedha Ranasinghe who went to the Rio Olympic Games.

However, according to Dayasritha Tissera, the Director of Mahaweli Centre, the number of athletes who go on to reach national level has decreased.

“During our days we were involved in sports activities from the time we return from school until darkness fell. But nowadays the children are engrossed in other things like smart phones and drugs, so they do not have the time to be active in sports,” said Tissera.

“We conduct these activities to keep the children occupied so that they can gain recognition when applying for jobs. Some have acquired good jobs in the government or private sector through excelling in sports activities and studies,” noted Tissera.

The Mahaweli Games that was started in 1986 now attracts athletes from ten Zones to participate in 41 events. Besides track and field events the boys and girls will play in team events as well. The team events are volleyball, netball, kabaddi, cycling, marathon, elle, cricket and football. The final in volleyball will be played on September 7 and the netball final the next day. Handball was introduced to the Games for the first time. It has already been completed with C Zone emerging champions and B Zone finishing as runners-up. There will be an exhibition match between these two teams on the final day of the Games.

These details were revealed by Sriyani Haputhanthri who co-ordinates the Games.

The cycle race for boys will be worked out to a distance of 100 kms while the girls race will cover a distance of 26 kms. There are 101 boys and 59 girls who have entered the cycling race.

The Games flame will be carried to many parts of the Mahaweli Zones beginning August 29 and will finish on September 7 at the venue. The Olympic torch will be lit by last year’s record holders Suraj Dinosha of Walawa Zone and Fathima Safiya of Victoria Zone.

A tree planting program will also be conducted during the tour of the Games Flame in various parts of the country. More than two million plants will be distributed to people along the rout of the Flame to be planted in their areas.

The plants that will be distributed are of various fruits and vegetables. This program was the vision of the President Maithripala Sirisena and started during his tenure as Mahaweli Minister.

During the run of the Games Flame to various cities and towns there will also be an awareness program on the dangers of drugs while there will also be musical shows in these towns according to Anura Jayaweera the system’s Assistant Director. The opening ceremony on September 7 will be attended by the Minister of Sports Harin Fernando as the chief guest. The Chief Guest at the closing ceremony will be President Maithripala Sirisena.

Many varieties of dance events are also arranged during the two-day event. There will be the welcome dance, song dance, cultural troupe events and the “Medirigiriya Dance”. A total of 25 children will be doing the dances.

“There will be 700 children from all the zones in gymnastic activities which will be a spectacular sight to the spectators and all these opportunities are given to the children of the farmers,” said Vasana Wijesekera who has trained the dancers.

All sports events will be handled and officiated by qualified officials of the respective governing bodies in Sri Lanka while coordinating work in all aspects of the Mahaweli Games is being handled by Sanoja Bibile the Public Relations Officer.