The International Automobile Federation (FIA) revealed last week that Hong Kong will be one of the 10 stops for its new Formula E electric racing series which will begin in Beijing next September. This set the gears in my mind moving. Sri Lanka already is one step ahead of Hong Kong in this aspect. We [...]

The Sundaytimes Sri Lanka

Sports can help rev up Sri Lanka’s image


The International Automobile Federation (FIA) revealed last week that Hong Kong will be one of the 10 stops for its new Formula E electric racing series which will begin in Beijing next September.

This set the gears in my mind moving. Sri Lanka already is one step ahead of Hong Kong in this aspect. We have had night-racing on the streets of Colombo for the past two years. Why not take the next step by trying to get Formula E down to Colombo and becoming part of the world’s first fully-electric racing series.

Now that we have all the plans in place for a motor race in the heart of our city, wouldn’t it be great if we can become a leg of an event which will visit the world’s leading cities like Los Angeles and Miami in the United States, and Berlin and London in Europe.
The three Asian stopovers in the 10-race calendar are Beijing, Malaysia and Hong Kong. The FIA said there were a total of 25 cities bidding to host the inaugural series and it had been a tough decision to make up the 2014-15 racing calendar. Sri Lanka must put its name forward for the second year.

Unlike the more prestigious Formula One series, Formula E is cheaper to host. In a bid to keep costs at a minimum, everything will be completed in one day with practice, qualifying and the race all happening within a short space of time which will not only save costs but also minimize the disruption to the host city.

The race will begin with a one-hour practice session giving drivers their first experience of the street circuit. There will be 10 teams each with two drivers and each will have up to two cars with full power of 270bhp available (Formula One cars have brake horse power of 1,000 which means Formula E will be one-third less powerful).

Yet, it will be exciting stuff, just like a Formula One race bar the noise. For most motor-heads, it is the noise they crave and the all-but silent Formula E machines will be strange but the adrenaline will surely start to flow once the greenlight is given.
All the excitement of motor-racing is bound to be there as the drivers jockey to overtake on the tight street circuits. During races only, drivers will be able to use a pre-determined number of power boosts to aid overtaking. This will increase the car’s power output from 180bhp to 270bhp for a limited period of time.

A length of road measuring three kilometres will be sufficient to host a race. I believe the tarmac at the Colombo Night Racing comes close to meeting this requirement. Just imagine the crowds savouring the action as cars jostle to overtake down the Galle Face stretch – it will be as good as relishing the cheese naans and devilled mutton curry at Nanas.

Operating as an ‘open championship’, the series gives car manufacturers and constructors the opportunity to showcase their electrical energy innovations in a racing environment, designing cars to the technical specifications set out by the FIA.

Organisers say the series will centre around three core values of Energy, Environment and Entertainment and is a fusion of engineering, technology, sport, science, design, music and entertainment – all combining to drive the change towards an electric future.

As far as racing, music and entertainment is concerned, Sri Lanka already has its own rocking version at the Night Racing. Now we must look ambitiously to the next step, and if we can become part of the World Series, it will do the country’s image a huge good.
Governments across the world today use sports as an instrument to project a country’s image internationally. The Olympics is the best example of how countries use sports. China used the 2008 Beijing Olympics as its coming out party, to show the world its new economic power. The 2012 London Olympics showcased the city as a modern metropolis and melting pot. The 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics will be used by Brazil to showcase its economic emergence.

The football World Cup, in some minds even bigger than the Olympics (certainly more popular), does the same thing to host nations. For Germany in 2006 it heralded a new dawn as it celebrated its first major international sporting event since the fall of the Berlin Wall and German reunification. The 2010 World Cup in South Africa also was meant to portray the country’s emergence from apartheid.
Here at home, we all know of Sri Lanka’s struggles for the past three decades or more. Thankfully, and hopefully, that sordid and anguished past is behind us as we all look forward to a new dawn. Sport can help mend bridges in a way no other aspect of society can do.

It can bring people of all religions, caste and creed together. We have had a wonderful taste of if back in 1996 when cricket’s World Cup came home. At the time the country was in the grips of this internecine war, yet we all paused to celebrate with our cricketers the wonderful achievement.

If sport can give people a moment of escapism from their daily struggles, then perhaps we must push for more, and staging international events will bring more cachet to Colombo.

In 2017, Hambantota will host the Asian Youth Games which will put the spotlight firmly on Sri Lanka. But until then the more international sports events we hold the better. With cricket in the doldrums right now, it is best that our movers-and-shakers start looking elsewhere.

A motor-race through the streets of Colombo under the umbrella of the world governing body would be just what the doctor – nay vedamahattaya – ordered.

With the nuts and bolt of organising such a race already in place, thanks to the Colombo Night Racing, it won’t be hard to take the next step and logically that one will be to bring down an international cast. We must be bold enough to bid for such events for it is time to rev up the action and make Colombo and Sri Lanka a happening place.

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