Columns - 5th column

Oh, to be in H’tota now that games are due!

By Rypvanwinkle

“Thaaththa,” Bindu Udagedera asked, “what is all this fuss about Hambantota?”
“Why, Bindu.” Percy said, “I thought we have been fussing about Hambantota for the past five or six years…”
“Well,” Bindu asked, “we have only been fussing about the people who emerged from Hambantota, haven’t we?”
“It is not just that, Bindu,” Percy declared, “we have been building a port, an airport and an international cricket stadium there…”
“But that is not all, thaaththa,” Bindu said.
“Why do you say that, Bindu?” Percy wanted to know.
“Why, thaaththa,” Bindu explained, “I think we want to host the Commonwealth Games there in 2018 now…”

“Oh, do we?” Percy wondered.
“Why, thaaththa,” Bindu asked, “don’t you think it is a good idea?”
“I would have thought it would cost an awful lot of money…” Percy said.
“I suppose it does,” Bindu conceded.
“And look what happened when they staged the cricket World Cup…” Percy pointed out.
“Why, thaaththa,” Bindu was puzzled, “I thought we staged the cricket World Cup quite successfully, and the only disappointment was that we didn’t win the cup…”
“Yes,” Percy said, “but the Cricket Board is heavily in debt because of the expenses it incurred during the World Cup…”
“That is indeed true…” Bindu admitted.

“And now they are asking for money from the government to recover those losses…” Percy observed.
“But thaaththa,” Bindu countered, “playing the World Cup here helped improve our image as a country as well and we were able to demonstrate to the world that Sri Lanka is now a safe place…”
“But the Commonwealth Games is quite different from the World Cup, Bindu,” Percy cautioned.
“Why do you say that, thaaththa?” Bindu inquired.
“Why, Bindu, it involves not just the handful of countries which play cricket; there are dozens of countries participating…” Percy explained.
“But wouldn’t that be even better, thaaththa?” Bindu queried, “then we can tell the whole world that we are a safe and peaceful place now…”
“But, Bindu,” Percy advised, “because the Commonwealth Games are a much bigger event, it is also going to be that much more expensive to host…”
“But what is wrong with that?” Bindu demanded.

“Try telling that we are spending billions of rupees on the Commonwealth Games to those university lecturers who are on strike or to those workers in the private sector who are angry about their pension scheme or even commuters who will soon be asked to pay higher bus fares…” Percy suggested.
“But thaaththa,” Bindu argued, “there are other benefits as well if we are able to host the Commonwealth Games…”
“And what benefits are those?” Percy was curious.
“Why thaaththa,” Bindu said, “we can teach a lesson to those people at Channel 4 in England…”
“What do you mean by that?” Percy asked.
“Why, thaaththa,” Bindu said, “if we have the Commonwealth Games in Hambantota, even the Queen would have to visit us…”
“I think she has already done so not once but twice,” Percy remembered, “so what would be so special about that?”
“Then, thaaththa,” Bindu declared, “even television stations such as Britain’s Channel 4 will be forced to come here …”

“And what good will that do?” Percy was not convinced.
“Why thaaththa,” Bindu pointed out, “they will be compelled to visit us and then they can come and see for themselves what a decent country we are, instead of broadcasting bogus documentaries on us …”
“I am not so sure about that, Bindu…” Percy said.
“And we will also be able to refuse visas to all these self-important people from over there who think that Sri Lanka is a killing field, just like they refused visas to our high officials or kept them waiting for their visas until the very last day…” Bindu argued.
“I would still think the cost of the Commonwealth Games would be too high to pay for such a small benefit…” Percy observed.
“Oh, I’m sure it will be worth it, thaaththa…” Bindu was confident.
“But remember, Bindu,” Percy pointed out, “all this would be possible only if we win the bid to stage the Commonwealth Games and we haven’t done that yet…”
“Oh, don’t worry about that, thaaththa…” Bindu said.
“Why do you say that, Bindu?” Percy queried.

“Why, thaaththa, don’t we have enough experts in the government who know a thing or two about how to turn a contest into their favour…” Bindu asked.
“But there is another possibility, Bindu…” Percy declared.
“And what is that?” Bindu wanted to know.
“The Games will be held only in 2018,” Percy pointed out, “don’t forget there are elections in 2016 and 2017. So, what would happen if we win the bid and prepare to stage the Games at Hambantota but something happens at these elections and there are significant changes? ”
“The way the Greens are behaving now,” Bindu said, “if that happens, there is a chance of us winning all the medals at the Games as well…”

“But there is another possibility…,” Percy said.
“What is that, thaaththa?” Bindu asked.
“Why, Bindu, even if there are changes, Hambantota may still be important…” Percy said.
Bindu didn’t quite know what to say to that.

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