Minister says Olympic athletes well looked after, officials on their own | Sunday Observer

Minister says Olympic athletes well looked after, officials on their own

4 July, 2021
Minister Rajapaksa: ‘I am following expert advice’
Minister Rajapaksa: ‘I am following expert advice’

Sports Minister Namal Rajapaksa contends he sees a bright future for Olympians in the country who can come through his long term vision as Sri Lanka looks forward to the Tokyo Games this month.

“Athletes have done really well so far despite the pandemic and we managed this with the advice of the National Sports Council. We see good results to get them into events overseas,” said Minister Rajapaksa in an interview with the Sunday Observer.

“I have given the athletes the utmost respect and looking after them like in the rest of the world. Few athletes represent Sri Lanka at the Olympics and so we should give them the opportunities and respect with perks that other athletes get in the rest of the world.”

Minister Rajapaksa said he is yet to give his consent to the number of officials leaving for the Olympics. “I have asked to cut down on officials and the Sports Council is monitoring it closely. Sports Ministry funding will be for athletes and team management, coaches, physiotherapists and managers but not on officials. The rest have to look after themselves including myself,” he said.

He said a government service structure exists in sports that can mould athletes to be on par with the rest of the world while emphasising that coaching standards have changed, the methodology of practicing has changed as well as the science.

“The biggest challenge when I took over the Sports Ministry was to reconcile the existing system with a modern system,” the Minister declared.

He said changes were taking place under the National Sports Council with the leadership of its Chairman Mahela Jayawardena. “They are all committed and they are delivering. I’m also looking at restructuring the associations, give them coaches and foreign exposure. Each association recognized by us will get a secretary paid by the Sports Ministry fund to make sure that the administrative structure is functioning smoothly and that the High Performance program is conducted in a proper manner,” Minister Rajapaksa revealed.

“We look at the long-term development plan as there is no way we can create a champion overnight. We need at least 8 to 10 years to create a champion according to world standards. Susanthika Jayasinghe is an example. We are also looking at second and third generation Sri Lankans. The new Sports Act will play a major role to regulate this entire system. The program will continue to create athletes irrespective of who the minister is.”

The Minister said the Sugathadasa Stadium will be restructured and the rest of the venues owned by the Ministry will come under its authority as the pioneer body of sports infrastructure, human resource and athlete development.

“Right now, Sugathadasa is just maintaining what they have. The Sports Department, which is supposed to be creating athletes, are doing grounds and stadiums rather than looking after athletes. I will change the entire system and give the infrastructure to the Sugathadasa and get the Department only to look into High Performance,” the Minister said.

He said plans have been drawn up for Grama Sevaka divisions and government officials to identity potential athletes at grassroot level and put them through a national process which he declared was “devolution of power at its best for talent hunting.”

“No one should be left behind. These kids should get an opportunity to showcase their talent. So we need to get the talent identified from the grassroots level. I want the provincial tournament going. Each sport can have their own provinces. We can select the national team through provincial tournaments,” the minister said.