Rs.8 billion for sports but athletes go begging | Sunday Observer

Rs.8 billion for sports but athletes go begging

Asanga Seneviratne
Asanga Seneviratne

Everybody knows by now that the Sri Lankan athletes who participated at the 13th South Asian Games (SAG) brought back the most number of medals (251) from such an event.

It was a great honour and achievement by the athletes at a time it seemed they were almost losing their enthusiasm to continue.

Now the question asked is who should take credit for this achievement? The athletes, Sports Ministry or the National Olympic Committee (NOC)?

The athletes who won medals are in line to receive financial rewards in the near future. These rewards are likely to be made by the Sports Ministry while the coaches are also to be rewarded.

However what made the athletes to perform so well was the formation of a High Performance Unit by the NOC chaired by Asanga Seneviratne who highlighted the problems faced by them.

“Even though the NOC seems to be like a post office to organise Games, that’s not what we actually do. We look after the welfare of all our top athletes in this country. In other countries even their families are supported with their daily needs.

“Other than the top 40 athletes that we are supporting we support all other athletes and many other sports federations as well as finding sponsors,” said Seneviratne.

“Since I took over as chairman we have signed up with Asiri Hospitals and we are about to sign up with SriLankan Airlines. We have an agreement with MAS holding, we have approached John Keells Holdings, Dialog, Mobitel and may other companies.

“These are some of the marketing plans and also each high performance athlete in this country has been featured. We are doing a lot of work to get our athletes achieve high performance. Unfortunately the Sports Ministry, NOC and the Federations are not working together. That’s the biggest problem we have.

“The Sports Ministry is allocated between Rs. 7.6 to 8 billion a year for sports in this country. Out of which Rs. 2.6 billion goes towards salaries, but I don’t know of any money allocated for high performance. So that means the top athletes in this country have to go with a begging bowl or just have to depend on someone who might just support them,” revealed Seneviratne.

He said many people were under the assumption that the NOC only organizes games, does ticketing and hotel bookings and the athletes have to manage the rest on their own which he added was not true.

“We plan on trying to work with the Sports Ministry in the interest of the athletes and the country. We need to support the athlete and the NOC is there to do just that,” said Seneviratne.

Secretary of the NOC Maxwell de Silva claimed that up to the Asian Games in 2018 the Sports Ministry funded very few of the top tier athletes while former Sports Minister Dayasiri Jayasekara had a scheme of payment for the athletes which was never implemented.

“The Ministry stopped these payments after the Asian Games in 2018 which hurt those athletes badly,” said de Silva.