Despite winning 40 gold, 83 silver and 128 bronze medals, the tally of 251 medals comes at a colossal expenditure of nearly Rs 130 million and an equal amount of consequences according to the report compiled by the South Asian Games (SAG) Review Committee. The four-member SAG Review Committee, headed by Gregory de Silva, handed [...]


Money wasted on a tamasha

251 medals in Kathmandu Games came at a cost of Rs 130 million and many debacles // Deafening silence despite damning SAG Review Committee report

Despite winning 40 gold, 83 silver and 128 bronze medals, the tally of 251 medals comes at a colossal expenditure of nearly Rs 130 million and an equal amount of consequences according to the report compiled by the South Asian Games (SAG) Review Committee.

The four-member SAG Review Committee, headed by Gregory de Silva, handed over the report to the Minister of Sports Dullas Alahapperuma on February 27, but silence prevails for the 107th day as many sports enthusiasts fear the effort may be another futile exercise.

While mainly pointing out on wastage of government funds in many ways, the report highlights the cracks in coordination between the two main stakeholders of the entire operation – the Ministry of Sports and the National Olympic Committee (NOC).

After meeting athletes, trainers, management and team officials, support staff members and journalists, who attended the regional sports event held from December 1 to 13, 2019 in Kathmandu and Pokhara in Nepal, the SAG Review Committee compiled a report of 37 pages, which also includes recommendations and findings.

The report ends with 11 issues highlighted as need to be probed seriously, in addition to listing 10 recommendations top officials should make in order to rectify potential issues that may arise ahead of the 14th SAG, which is to take place in 2022 in Pakistan.

The findings mainly focuses on the aspects of match fixing, negligence on the part of coaches and team officials, negligence by athletes, unfair or controversial decisions made by referees and umpires, lack of proper equipment or sports gear, the undue pressure mounted on the athletes, obstacles the athletes and coaches had to go through in Sri Lanka and the failure on the part of certain national sports bodies in selecting the right candidate for the event.

While explaining in detail, of disputes and rifts that took place from the very beginning in preparing, documenting, participating and return by the Ministry of Sports and NOC, the SAG Review Committee noted down 11 issues, which may have alternatively distracted the focus elsewhere.

The 11th and the last issue listed, could be highlighted as an issue larger than the remaining 10 cases, as it involves financial discrepancy to a certain extent. However out of the total expenditure made on a large contingent of 575 athletes, 230 officials and backup staff in addition to the 20 journalists funded by the Ministry of Sports, the 13th SAG also gives a combined loss of Rs 30 million plus on just three teams, which collectively includes 102 athletes.

Out of the three, the handball team of 32 athletes, only won a bronze medal, while football (40) and kho-kho (30), an alien sport to Sri Lankans, failed to impress. The Sri Lanka football team, which mainly included emerging players, however, managed to impress with two draws – against eventual gold medallists Nepal and the strong Maldives side, despite ending up without a win.

But kho-kho is considered as an untimely and useless entry in the report. Sri Lanka has spent over Rs 8 million on a contingent of 39 athletes and officials on air travel, accommodation and other expenses. The heaviest losers are considered as the football contingent, which includes a total of 48 athletes and officials, which cost a total of Rs 11.3 million. The contingent of 39 athletes and officials representing the handball team grabbed a bronze medal to save face, but their cost is calculated as Rs. 10.6 million.

Above all, the report at length details of the rift between the Ministry of Sports, which was headed by its Director General Dhammika Muthugala and the NOC, from the beginning to the end, as one of the main causes to most of the catastrophes that continued in preparation and participation.

“The Ministry (Sports) officials and NOC officials should identify their roles in this operation, which is a multi-sport event. The Ministry Director General was making the pointless effort of trying to take control of the whole operation from the start. But it was a vain effort, and the NOC should have been given the free space to carry on with their part of the operation, as they usually do. These were some of the views and points even accepted and understood by the ministry officials,” the report stated.

Sri Lanka has the much needed experience and know-how participating at 13 editions of the SAG, since its inception in 1984 in Kathmandu, Nepal. Sri Lanka even hosted the SAG in 1991 and 2006. By now, the whole operation of fielding teams to represent the country at a multi-sport event is not Greek or rocket science to seasoned officials in the annals of sport in Sri Lanka.

Unless the proper guidelines and manuals in representing the country and participating at multi-sport events are included in the National Sports Policy, administrative and logistic debacles that took place at the 13th SAG will be unavoidable even at such future events.

The Ministry of Sports, a fortnight ago, stated that it has appointed three separate committees to investigate on the findings and the 11 recommendations detailed by the report. With the General Elections round the corner, many in the sports circles are of the view that the findings and recommendations made by the SAG Review Committee will be just another worthless move, as the Minister of Sports portfolio may be subjected to change.

However the SAG Review Committee also made it a point to list 10 recommendations targeting the 14th South Asian Games, which will take place in Lahore, Pakistan in 2022.

11 points to ponder
1.   On athletes who missed out representing the country, despite undergoing training programmes conducted after spending a large sum. Swimmers Kimiko Raheem and Cherantha de Silva did not take part in events citing medical issues while also not undergoing medical examinations conducted by the experts of the Sports Ministry’s Medical Unit before deciding not to take part in their events.2.   On the incident of the weightlifter who was not included into the competition draw inexplicably. He was selected to the team after an appeal, and the team officials responsible should be inquired on the reason behind the athlete’s last-minute exclusion.3.   On the issue of including additional badminton players to the squad with the influence of the sport’s governing body. But they did not take part in any event. This has caused disrepute and monetary loss to the country.4.   On Boxing Association officials replacing two athletes according to their own will. Despite being selected and approved by the National Selection Committee, the two boxers were dropped and replaced by the association officials. The two new boxers failed to impress with their performances.

5.   On the incident of including Triathlon as a sport to represent Sri Lanka, while its governing body has no affiliation nor have they registered with the Ministry of Sport. The representation in Nepal had taken place without any recommendation by the National Selection Committee or the Appeals Committee.

6.   On the allegations made by certain parties against the women’s basketball team (5×5) in connection to match fixing.

7.   On a similar match fixing allegation raised against the cycling (Mountain Bike Downhill event) team. Currently the Secretary has requested the Legal Division of Sri Lanka Police to conduct an investigation, and it is recommended that the Ministry of Sports too hold a separate investigation.

8.   On holding a disciplinary inquiry against the Kho Kho Federation based on negative feedbacks over their credentials as a national sports body, after spending a huge amount.

9.   On conducting a comprehensive inquiry against the women’s volleyball team, who suffered defeat in a controversial and irresponsible manner. It must be mentioned that volleyball is the national sport of Sri Lanka and relevant athletes and officials should be wholly responsible for such setbacks.

10. On the inability of wushu officials to include adequate number of players, whilst missing potential chances of winning medals.

11. On purchasing air tickets, which has created a contradictory situation. The Ministry of Sports and the National Olympic Committee have two separate opinions pertaining to the purchase. An adequate inquiry is recommended.



Recommendations for 14th SAG
1.   Summon the national sports bodies in advance and update them of the event.

2.   To establish an Operational Department to plan training schedules and programmes for athletes.

3.   To appoint qualified coaches well ahead.

4.   To appoint qualified personal to manage the affairs of the Operational Department.

5.   To establish a separate Operational Centre to update, dispatch and issue information, activities and documentations pertaining to the attendees of the event.

6.   To commence training of the relevant national squads, well in advance.

7.   To provide quality sports gear and equipment to athletes.

8.   To provide training, ground, court and other facilities at regional level.

9.   To obtain the services of qualified foreign experts and conduct comprehensive training programmes for local coaches under the guidance of the National Sports Science Institute.

10. To provide exposure to athletes at international events.

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