Of Olympic dreams and silver medals
By Mihiri Wikramanayake
He is an Olympic medallist. And, like every other Olympian, he is a man with dreams. One of which he has not given up long after the race was won. His quest for more goes on and on.

Jin de Silva did not receive his medal for the race he 'could not run' but for his amazing Olympic memorabilia collection. De Silva won a silver medal at the Atlanta Summer Games in 1996, for his "Centennial Collectibles Memorabilia" display.

I met Jin de Silva in Hawai'i recently, where he is domiciled. He is quite a legend amongst the local community and a popular figure in Oahu. At the time, his collection was being displayed at the Hawai'i Convention Centre to commemorate Duke Kahanamoku's achievements as a four-time Olympian with a match bag of four golds, two silver and one bronze medal.

He narrated his story about his dreams that began over half a century ago when, as a schoolboy in Sri Lanka, he was a track and field athlete. De Silva was vying for a place in the country's 1948 Olympic squad but unfortunately, at the time the country could only afford to send just one athlete and Duncan White was selected. And while White went on to win the silver medal in the 400 metre hurdles behind Ray Cochran, de Silva was left behind with a deep unfulfilled Olympic desire.

It was that desire that started him off collecting Olympic souvenirs and pins. With a gamut of collectibles that include stamps, books, ties and scarves, plates, glassware, spoons and shirts and various other mementos, de Silva's collection has now exceeded the 10,000 mark and is considered the world's largest collection to be held by any individual. He has also been conferred a lifetime membership from the Olympic Collectors Association in New York and is an honorary member of the Hawai'i Swimming Hall of Fame.

"But," he says, "although there are many people with very large collections, I think mine is the only one that has a sentimental value." He does not make any money out of his collection and his main motive is to inspire the younger generation. "That is my greatest happiness," he says, "to share the Olympic spirit with others."

De Silva has attended the Olympic Games of '84, '88, '92 '96 and the Millennium Games in Australia. At each of these games, he has displayed and added to his collection. "Trading is a second sport in the Olympics," he explains where athletes and spectators share their wares. But his greatest moment was when he met the wife of his mentor, four times Olympic gold medallist and champion of equal rights, Jesse Owens.

When de Silva was training in athletics as a young boy, he wrote to Jesse Owens telling him about his dream and received a training schedule from the pro. He diligently followed the programme but was unfortunate not to be selected for the Games. However, Owens remained his hero and at the Los Angeles Games of 1984, he was surprised to hear that Owens' wife was in the stadium. De Silva managed to persuade the guards into letting him meet with her and when he did he told her about Owens' generosity. Touched by his story, Owens's widow later sent de Silva a beautiful letter together with one of her husband's commemorative gold medals.

"That was the most wonderful thing to happen to me," said de Silva tearfully. That medal always gets pride of place wherever this collection is displayed.

He was proud to witness Sri Lanka's sprint queen Susanthika Jayasinghe's achievement in the Olympics when she won the bronze medal in the 200 metre dash at the 2000 Games in Sydney, Australia.

In conclusion, he gave my teenaged daughter, Anya, a collector's pin as a souvenir and advised her to go for her dreams and never give up on them, whatever they might be.

Jin de Silva may have had unfulfilled dreams of Olympic fame that slipped through his fingers, but he did not give up. That is the Olympic spirit.

EUCO: From Baroque to modern music
Music is a univer sal language. Whether it be played in grand halls in Britain or the farthest corners of South Asia - music can reach out and touch the hearts of every living being.

Spurred by the success of their previous performances in this country the European Commission to Sri Lanka will present the European Union Chamber Orchestra in "From Bach to Bartok". This whilst being the EUCO's third tour will undoubtedly be a treat for all Sri Lankan lovers of classical music.

Formed in 1981 with young professional musicians from the European Union, the EUCO performs at international festivals and in prestigious concert halls, enjoying an annual schedule of some 70 concerts. A recognized cultural ambassador for the European Union, the Orchestra tours in Europe and overseas with an established international reputation for musical excellence.

"Ever since Western classical music was introduced to this country by the Dutch and the English it has created its own following," says Dr. Lalith Perera. "The fact that all the tickets were sold out at both the 1999 and the 2000 concerts is enough proof of the fact that there is a marked interest in Western classical music."

This year's concert will also have a local touch to it. For taking centre stage as soloist, accompanied by the EUCO at the first concert in Colombo will be Sri Lankan born Soprano, Preshanthi Navaratnam.

The 15 performers of the EUCO include German, British, Danish, French, Swedish, Belgian and Finnish musicians. "These are professional musicians, so such performances present ideal opportunities for our aspiring musicians. The exposure will be great," adds music critic Dr. (Mrs.) Selvie Perera.

"The Orchestra will go through music from the Baroque to the Modern Period." It will also include the works of Mozart, Mendelssohn and Tchaikovsky. The works of Bartok will contribute to the Modern period.

This year's tour to Sri Lanka is sponsored by Prestige Automobiles (Pvt.) Ltd. Other sponsors include The Lanka Oberoi, Jetwing Travels, TNL Radio, Dynavision and The Sunday Times.

Best in the evening hair style category
"Hair Asia Pacific", an international hair and make up competition was held at the Sunway Lagoon Resort Hotel, Malaysia from October 15 to 17. Organised by the Sri Lanka Association of Hairdressers and Beauticians (SLAHAB), this is the sixth of its kind.

Thirteen countries participated in the competition, namely Japan, South Korea, Australia, Thailand, Indonesia, Philippines, Taiwan, India, Pakistan, Singapore, Vietnam, Malaysia and Sri Lanka. Contestants participated in eight categories, with the list including Ladies and Gents Commercial Hair Cut and Blow Dry, Ladies and Gents Creative Hair Cut and Blow Dry, Ladies Elegant Evening Hairstyle on Long Hair, Nail Art, Bridal Make-up and Fantasy Hair Style.

Sri Lanka too, being the organisers made its mark in some categories. Ranga Perera and Prabath Saranga secured 2nd and 3rd place in the Hair Style category, while Suwinitha Gunawikkrama came in 2nd in the Nail Art category. Most other places secured by the Sri Lankan competitors show much future potential.

Deepavali is here
By E. Sivayoganathan
Deepavali is a spiritual festival celebrated by Hindus during the October-November period. It signifies the emergence of the soul from darkness, avidya to light vidya or awakening.

Deepavali means rows of light in Sanskrit. The festival is observed by displaying rows of light at the entrance of homes, places of worship etc.

Among Tamils, oil baths, worshipping of Goddess Luxshmi and fireworks displays etc., take a prominent place. Among Hindus, an oil bath on this day is considered a sacred and important ritual.

Deepavali day is the celebration of the victory of Sri Krishna over the demon Naharasuran who by practising austerities had gained strength to drive the Gods out of the celestial kingdom. On this day, people clean and decorate their homes for, uncleaned homes drive away good fortune. In the courtyards of the homes colourful kolams (designs) are drawn using rice and turmeric flour.

Legend has it that when Asuran was to be eliminated, he was allowed one boon at the moment of death and he asked that the day of his death be celebrated as a day feasting and rejoicing. Hence it is known as Narakachturdasi.

Deepavali is celebrated differently in different places but bathing in the early morning, wearing clean new clothes, going to temples for religious rituals etc., are common to all. Short eats, sweets and other eatables are shared with relatives, friends, neighbours and visitors.

The festival of lights signifies the true awakening of wisdom in an ignorant mankind. The rows of beautiful lamps lit in Hindu homes symbolise the annihilation of ignorance and sorrow.

Swami Sivananda declares that all the lights of the world cannot be compared even to a ray of inner light of the self. Merge yourself in this light of lights and enjoy the bliss of the brightest of lights, God.

The world today is affected not only by poverty, social disabilities but also by the selfishness of man. The festival reminds us that where there is Dharma righteousness, there victory shall be.

The beauty of purified wisdom which we carry in our hearts will undoubtedly strengthen us for sacrifice, service and greatness and dispel the superstitious darkness of ignorance and egoistic arrogance.

Deepavali is a festival of freedom, peace, unity and compassion since love and peace are its central theme. Let us pray for knowledge, peace and happiness and to free ourselves from ignorance, envy, misery and hatred.

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