By Champika Fernando
After its failed bid to play hosts for the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Hambantota, the Olympic Council of Asia yesterday selected the Southern Port City to host the 2017 Asian Youth Games.
This was announced by Sheikh Ahmad Al- Fahad Al-Sabah, the President of the Olympic Committee of Asia at a press conference held at the National Olympic Committee auditorium.
“We have decided to award the 2017 Games to Sri Lanka and if they wish they could have the 2018 Asian Beach Games too in the following year,” declared OCA chief who is here on a short visit.
However Sri Lanka has decline to hosts the Asian Beach Games.
He also said that the OCA is confident that Sri Lanka would play hosts for a successful event in 2018, given the commitment given by the country’s political hierarchy.
“I have been here only for 24 hours and I was pleased to see the commitment and dedication of a hospitable nation,” he said.
Thailand, Qatar, Dubai, Uzbekistan and Indonesia were initially interested in hosting the games, but with Sri Lanka really pushing for the course, they withdrew.
According to Sports Minister Mahindananda Aluthgamage, the event would cost Sri Lanka, a staggering U$ 300 million, which is closer to Rs. 40 billion.
“We will need to get the required infra-structure to host the games, thus it would need approximately US$ 300 million,” the minister said.
Sri Lanka earlier dumped close to Rs. 800 million on its failed bid for the 2018 Commonwealth Games.
The Asian Youth Games will consist of 12 disciplines and will see 45 nations competing.
NOC chief Hemasiri Fernando said that they want to make this the best ever Asian Youth Games but admitted there’s plenty of hard work ahead for them to realize that dream.
Lalith Weeratunga, secretary to the President will be the chairman of the organizing committee while the Sports Minister will be the chairman of the steering committee assisted by MP Namal Rajapaksa as his deputy.
To mark the visit of OCA chief, the Philatelic Bureau of the Department of Posts issued a special commemorative cover.