| by Helasingha Bandara

( August 9, 2014, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) While other nations battle on the field of sports for national pride, the people representing our nation battle to secure a place on the list to go on a free holiday, a wily purpose. A bronze medal in Weight Lifting in the recently concluded Glasgow Commonwealth games is enough evidence that our purpose, our attitude and our strategy in this regard are completely off track.

The Commonwealth games came to the beautiful city of Glasgow in Scotland. Both the opening and closing ceremonies were fun filled combined with Scottish humour, Glasgow friendliness and were much appreciated by all parties. Individual athletes, teams and countries were highlighted as victorious and many a tear of joy were shed. We the Sri Lankans, watched with great expectations but had to bear with disappointment after disappointment. One report said that the Sri Lanka contingent had 156 athletes. If that was correct, with the officials it could have been close to 200 people travelling that far on the money that the poor people of the country sweat to earn. The waste can be justified if our athletes compete at an acceptable standard despite not winning. It was quite the opposite. In the track and field events no one could reach even a final, why?

The reasons can be found in the only highlights of Sri Lanka participation at the 2014 games.

Highlight 1, riding on the motorway.

British media reported that some Sri Lankan athletes (cyclists) had gone on to a very busy motorway for a practice session and the police had to remove them. In fact at the opening ceremony, within the spectacle this incident was particularly ridiculed on the television screens across the UK and on millions of other screens all over Commonwealth.

The organizers of the Sri Lanka party, probably the sports ministry officials, did not know what their athletes were doing because they could have been very busy with sight seeing or shopping. They did not seem to have a well organised practice plan. It also showed ignorance on the part of the athletes to risk their lives on a busy motorway. We showed our stupidity to the world in this negative manner. Perhaps this could be the behavioural reflection of our characteristic national disregard to road safety in Sri Lanka?

Highlight 2, spreading the Lion flag

At the closing ceremony Kirani James of Granada and a few other athletes were interviewed at one time for their comments on the Glasgow games in general, the welcome they received from the Glasgow crowd and their individual happiness on winning. While the interview was live on TV one Sri Lanka participant held a large Sri Lanka lion flag behind the athletes for the camera. The idea was either to deceive the world that those were Sri Lanka athletes or to steal a spot on the TV. Either way this was an act of disgrace. In the first place no one under the Sri Lanka banner performed at the games in any manner that should catch the eye of the world. While no other nation including the countries of those athletes interviewed made an attempt to show their flags. Sri Lankans trying to steal a spot standing behind the athletes of other nations could only be described as a shameful act. Do we need that? What attitude is that!

We have produced world renowned cricketers such as Aravinda, Arjuna, Jayasooriya, Mahela, Murali and Sangakkara to name a few. We are recognized as a cricketing nation. The reason for that is that along the path, Arjuna Ranathunga thought that it was time for us to start a tradition of winning. - He fought his way to win the world cup in 1996. The tradition now continues and we win. Susanthika Jayasingha, Sugath Thilakrathna, and Sriyani Kulawansa have won medals at Commonwealth games. This disproves the hypothesis that our physical build is no match to the black athletes of Africa or the Caribbean. The problem lies with our purpose, attitude, desire, investment and management.

Our purpose should be to compete with the best and be on par with them. Is it common sense to send a hundred meter sprinter who runs it around 11 seconds when it is certain that the winning time is 10 seconds or less? If we have someone who runs 100 meters in 10.2 or 10.3 seconds we know that our runner would give the spectators their money’s worth. It is not difficult to decide whether we have athletes who can compete on the world stage. As long as our purpose remains to give a chance for a bunch of people to visit another country in the guise of taking part in an athletic meet we will remain a dormant nation on the field of athletics.

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