Athletics back on track?
By S.R. Pathiravithana
After the horrendous debacle in Athens, it seem that finally sanity is prevailing in the disjointed athletics in Sri Lanka who are in preparation for the South Asian Federation (SAF) Games which will be held at the Sugathadasa Stadium from 15 to 25 August 2005.

Sri Lanka's athletic ship ran aground at Athens this summer. So they have called for help from a ship repairer in Kiran Atapattu and have appointed him as the Manager Athletics for the SAF games. We still do not what Atapattu's exploits in the track or the field are, but, his famous social background may help the athletic administration to put some of the disjointed aspects of the present arena together. In the first step towards this endeavour, the respective coaches and the athletes from the 93 strong contingent who are under training at present are scheduled to go on a one month High Altitude Training Programme from November 20 to December 20. According to president of the Athletic Association of Sri Lanka Sunil Jayaweera, these athletes will get a sum of Rs. 200/- per day from the National Olympic Committee (NOC) during this period.

However at the same time there will also be a monitoring committee comprising Kiran Atapattu, National coach Lakshman de Alwis and vice president Dervin Perera who will keep a tab on whether these athletes are keeping up to their task. For this the coaches will have to provide the details of venues and the time schedules of the athletes training programme and the monitoring team in turn will make random checks on this. If by chance if any contingent has flouted the given schedule, the monitoring committee will call for explanation from the coach and also request them to refund the allocations granted to them by the NOC. On completion of the High Altitude Training Programme the 93 contingent will get a ten-day break for the festive season before they go in for the next training session which will go till June 2005 where the SAF Team proper will be selected.

The AA president also added that he has indicated to the NOC of some shortcomings that they are facing at present where events are concerned. The president said "Sri Lanka is very strong in track and field events and as the games are now scheduled to be held in Sri Lanka we must play on our strong points". Sunil Jayaweera has pointed out to the NOC that the 10,000 metres, 20 KM walk, Pole Vault, 500 metres and the Marathon (men) and 20 KM walk and 4 x 400 (women) have not been included and have requested the governing body to so.

Besides this, he also pointed out that men's hammer throw a sport that Sri Lanka does not indulge in, is included in the schedule this year. He said "As far as I know only India and Pakistan are the two countries that take part in this event. For a sport to be taken in as an event of the SAF games at least three countries must take part. As things are we have requested the NOC to consider removing this event from this year's games. But, if Nepal or Bhutan send in their entries then they have to keep it on the schedule".

The AA President also revealed that besides the Sugathadasa Stadium, the grounds at Torrington, Reid Avenue and the university grounds will be made available also for the visiting athletes upon their arrival for the games.

Upon all this good news there also is another development that is working towards the betterment of athletics. As the history has shown in pure black and white the bickering within athletics big-wigs has not only brought the game down, but also depicted it as a smelly can of worms that has done more harm to its image and the athletes themselves rather than any good. To put the new development in the words of the AA president -- "The next AA elections are due in March 2005.

From that point onwards there will be only five months for the SAF games. At this juncture if we keep on indulging in factional fighting it is not going to do any good to our common cause which is the SAF games. It is imperative that we do well at these games as it will mean a lot for the future of it. So as a result we are looking for a common candidate who will be an acceptable person to all parties. If we can succeed in this, athletics at large will be the winner and if all are working for a common goal we stand to achieve a lot".

Words of wisdom indeed. Is it workable or not only future will tell. If it becomes a success so many others who are standing at different corners in all areas of life can take the cue.


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