Life and times of a towering personality
Interestingly, Roy, a product of Kingswood College, had played for the school senior hockey team which had an unbeaten run under J.S. Adahan, captained the under 16 cricket team and was the champion Junior athlete. All this by the age of sixteen! At this point, he left school to concentrate full time on business and politics. He was to become the chairman of the Yatinuwara Ganga Palatha Village Council at Twenty five the youngest ever
Great Oaks spring from small acrons. This comes to mind when reviewing the life and times of a towering personality in the field of Sports Administration in Sri Lanka, the President of the National Olympic Committee for fourteen long years (1983-1997) Roy de Silva.
Interestingly, Roy, a product of Kingswood College, had played for the school senior hockey team which had an unbeaten run under J.S. Adahan, captained the under 16 cricket team and was the champion Junior athlete. All this by the age of sixteen! At this point, he left school to concentrate full time on business and politics. He was to become the chairman of the Yatinuwara Ganga Palatha Village Council at Twenty five the youngest ever.
Roy played for Kandy in the first ever hockey nationals (1956) and continued to do so for ten years, captaining the team for four years. A high point of his playing career was when he turned out against Gurbux Singh’s Asian Games winning team which also included the famous Balbir Singh and V.J. Peter.
Cutting his administrative teeth as secretary of the Kandy District Hockey Association under the Stewardship of M. S. Jainudeen (the father of Shafie), Roy accepted an invitation from Dr. J.C. Duraisingham to be president of the SLHA. The association was Rs. 90,000 in the red at that stage and it was felt that Roy could use the clout he had as the chairman, Oils and Fats Corporation, to tide over the crisis. The situation was so bad that money had to be borrowed from the Hatton National Bank (the guarantor was a member of the SLHA who worked in the bank) to send the team to the 1978 Asian Games.
His twelve year period as President, SLHA saw him virtually carrying the begging bowl around to send hockey teams for international competitions abroad. The Sports Ministry was not of much help.
A little amused, but also with a tinge of regret, Roy recalls that he was Vice President of the Asian Hockey Federation for 19 years and the vice president of the Olympic Council of Asia from 1986 to 1990. The then President of the Council, Sheikh Al Fahd Al Sabah, was killed on the first day of the Kuwaiti invasion. Propelled to the highest post as acting President, he was robbed of the prize by the late Sheik’s son who swayed the voters with a combination of dollars and prestige. According to the rules, the incumbent had to be at least thirty-five and the young Sheikh was a mere twenty seven. However then, as now, money talked.
A crumb was thrown his way when as Acting President of the Olympic Council of Asia, he opened the 1990 Asian Games in Beijing. Roy was also a member of the Finance Committee of the Commonwealth Games Federation for eight years.
The South Asian Federation Games got underway in Nepal in 1984 and Roy was a founder member of the organization. In passant, he mentions that at the 1991 SAF games held in Colombo, Sri Lanka won 44 golds in 11 disciplines. We have certainly tumbled from those dizzying heights.
Having been present at the Olympics in Los Angels (1984), Seoul (1988) Barcelona (1992) and Atlanta (1996), Roy hands the palm to Seoul for the superb organization of the games the highlight of the four Olympics Games he attended was the 19.32 second 200 metre run by Michael Johnson at Atlanta.
Namibian Frankie Frederiks who followed Johnson home also got under the record.
Roy points out that in the ‘50s' & '60s' and '70s' we always came up against either the world hockey champions or the runner up (India/Pakistan). Further, hockey is the only team sport where Asia has three or four participants in the World Cup - India, Pakistan, South Korea and in 1996, Malaysia. The Astro turf, he says, suits the European teams. Holland has over 100 of them. Madras got an Astro turf for the South Asian games in 1995, while Sri Lanka has only two.
There is no feeder to the present athletes, Dharsha, Susanthika and Sugath. This is a glaring lack and it shows that the officials have not been on the correct track, thinking wise. Roy is emphatic that ministry officials should not hold office in sports bodies. There is a definite conflict of interests.
Our best chance in international sport lies in games where there is nobodys’ contact. Volleyball, Table Tennis and even Boxing are mentioned.
Boxing, because the competition is weight to weight.
Athletics needs good coaches, even foreign ones. The athletes must be looked after, nutrition supplied and in addition, a job or a monthly stipend.
In conclusion, Roy a one time President of the Kandy District Cricket Association, is sad about the events that have overtaken cricket in his home town.