Sports Minister keen on developing high altitude training centre | Sunday Observer

Sports Minister keen on developing high altitude training centre

2 October, 2022
Roshan  Ranasinghe
Roshan Ranasinghe

Sri Lanka’s 19th Sports Minister Roshan Ranasinghe plans to usher in a new chapter in sports by developing national sports bodies.

“There are over 65 sports bodies registered under the Sports Ministry. I have no personal agenda and will always look after men and women of all sports,” the minister told the Sunday Observer.

He assumed duties on May 23 and during the past four months he has been lucky to get successful results from cricket, netball, athletics, wrestling, para athletics and basketball.

Excerpts of the interview:

Q: Do you think your Ministry portfolio is a big challenge for you?

A. All portfolios are challenges. My task is to work hard to overcome challenges.

Q: You have three portfolios: Sports, Youth Affairs and Irrigation. How do you view the other two ministries?

A. Actually I like to work with these two Ministries. Our youth requested for system change recently and we take up this challenge. Every year 310,000 pass the Advanced Level Examination.

Around 80,000 enter State and private universities. It is the responsibility of the Youth Affairs Ministry to look into the welfare of the others.

Q: What are the institutions that come under the NYSC?

A. The National Apprentice and Industrial Training Authority (NAITA), National Youth Corps, and the German Technical Training Institute. These are good places for the youth to build their career.

Q: What was the situation when you assumed duties as the Sports Minister?

A. When I assumed duties as the Sports Minister I had to face a big challenge as there was no financial support from the Treasury due to the situation in the country. I am the only Sports Minister to face this difficult situation especially after the global pandemic.

Q: After you were appointed as the Sports Minister Sri Lanka shone at international level. What is the reason for this?

A. The national sports bodies, the teams, coaches, selection committees and the Sports Ministry all worked together to achieve success. As the Sports Minister I give good leadership but never take the credit for their successes. All credit should go to the players and their coaches and not to the Ministry.

Q: What are the areas that need to be improved to obtain better results?

A. We have to appreciate the players and coaches and give best value to them. Giving infrastructure facilities for all sports is very important. Sports are not only cricket, rugby or athletics.

We have to give the best treatment for all sports. We need to develop players mentally and physically and these two areas must be looked at very seriously.

The Sports Medical Unit and National Sports Science Institute are under the Sports Ministry. We have to get the views of both institutions to build the players. Finance Management in sports associations is also an important area and the Sports Development Department under the Director General of Sports has big responsibility. We also plan to look after Sugathadasa Indoor and Outdoor Stadiums, the Diyagama Mahinda Rajapaksa Sport Complex and the Torrington Sports Complex.

Q: The Sports Ministry had plans to build a High Altitude Training Centre at Nuwara Eliya some time ago. But this did not materialise. What is the situation now?

A. Yes this is a very important area but due to financial factors that project was halted and we are very concerned about this. The Government is in a very tough situation and we are trying to get support from the other countries to build the High Attitude Training Centre in Nuwara Eliya. It could also be hired out to other Asian countries to earn money.

Q: You have a good relationship with Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) and was able to get support from them for the other sports. What type of support do you expect from the SLC in future?

A. SLC gave their assistance to build our sports fund and they gave assistance to our fastest sprinter Yupun Abeykoon and all the Commonwealth Games contingents to travel to Bermingham. We have started discussions to get their assistance to develop the Diyagama Mahinda Rajapaksa Sport Complex. They are keen to get a ground to build a good cricket stadium of international standard and we have agreed to that and SLC will help to improve other facilities at the Sport Complex such as reconstructing athletics track and other sports facilities. Actually the Diyagama Stadium is situated at a good location near the Kottawa Highway Exit and this is very important to get overseas spectators and one way to develop the sports economy.

Q: Today sports technology is developing fast in other countries. Do you have plans to develop it in Sri Lanka?

A. We are going to upgrade all areas with new technology. Sports Technology is a very important area to focus on at this stage and all countries, especially European countries, Australia, USA, Singapore, Japan get the highest benefit from this.

We plan to develop our Sports Medical Unit and are very concerned about Anti Doping. The Sri Lanka Anti Doping Unit near the Sugathadasa Stadium is doing a good job.

Players’ data analysis system also should also be developed and update the knowledge of coaches. We are also seriously considering the possibility of getting foreigh coaches and sending our players and coaches for training in foreign countries and are talking to experts to make a National Sports Law and Sports Constitution.

Q: Sports most of the time is limited to town areas but we find talented athletes in rural areas. How do you look at this?

A. I always believe that the most talented players can be found in rural areas and we have to go through from Divisional Secretariat level, district level, Provincial level and then get into national level. We are conducting the National Sports Festival from the Divisional Secretariat level to the national level.

Earlier the Sports Ministry spent Rs. 200 million for the National Sports Festival, but my plan is to conduct the same National Sports Festival with Rs. 20 million and save money during this critical period.

I also have to conduct the Mahaweli Games under the Irrigation Ministry and also hope to spend minimum funds to conduct this meet too.

Q: How do you plan to get better results from sports bodies?

A. Actually sports bodies at the national level have to show proper plans for sport development. Officials need to concentrate on sports and look for benefits for themselves. We know that a large number of officials are keen to go on overseas tours. We must stop this system. Players and coaches should be given first priority.

The officials should find sponsors for events, but today all officials come to the Sports Ministry and request for funds for overseas tours. If they cannot find sponsors and money there is no point in them remaining in office.

Holding office for four years continuously is the maximum that an official should hold. This rule should be introduced for all sports bodies.

Some officials behave as if the sports bodies are their private property. They never coordinate with schools, associations and this is one of the main reasons that athletes don’t progress after leaving school.

Q: You are making an effort to develop sports through the Sports Ministry and the Education Ministry. You and the Education Minister have already discussed this matter and given suggestions recently. But the National Olympic Committee (NOC) also plays an important part in developing sports. Do you have plans to coordinate with them?

A. Yes we had successful discussions with the Education Ministry. I know the NOC has a role in sports. I have no personal issues with the NOC and like to have a discussion with them. But I have a big question. Is it the National or the International Olympic Committee? They need to have the same laws as our national bodies and they work under the International Olympic Committee (IOC). We have received complaints about the NOC about corruption and they never work according to the national law. Especially with regard to the Asian, South Asian, Commonwealth Games and Olympics Games, the NOC works according to their personal agenda and sometimes several officials of the NOC go on foreign tours and they give support only to selected sports bodies.

Finance management is also a big issue. They should correct themselves and work according to the Sri Lankan law. I don’t think the IOC ever expected this level of issues from the NOC and they have to realise this.

Q: Today sports bodies at national level today have big issues and the Sport Ministry is directly involved in these matters and some sports bodies have been dissolved and Interim Committees appointed. What is the reason for these issues?

A. We never interfere in their work without any reason. We give them a chance to hold the AGM on time and then again give an extended period to conduct the AGM. When we extend the period they are happy but some sports bodies do not hold AGMs and continue to extend their period.

The financial reports are not clear while most of them are not audited on time and these are the serious issues and we have to take action and sometimes the Director General of Sport uses his power to look into this and as the Sports Minister I have to look at everything and clear all to go forward for benefit of the players and sports.

Some sport bodies are there only in name and do not do anything to uplift the sport. When there is an overseas tour they come to us asking for funds. We plan to change this system.

The National Sport Council and High Performance Committee are doing their best to coordinate all sport development matters while Government support is also highly appreciated.

Q: Are you satisfied with the way the sports media people handle their duties?

A. I appreciate their commitment to promote sports. Their criticism is also good but I must say don’t write one-sided stories. The analytical part of sports news should be developed.