Sri Lanka’s destiny of hosting the Asian Youth Games (AYG) 2017 in Hambantota will be decided by next week after the visit of a delegation of Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) on June 20. The delegation, still not designated or named by the OCA, is set to meet the Organising Committee of the AYG 2017, [...]

The Sundaytimes Sri Lanka

Asian Youth Games likely to be moved away from Sri Lanka

“We will split the games and host them in Hambantota and Colombo” says influential insider

Sri Lanka’s destiny of hosting the Asian Youth Games (AYG) 2017 in Hambantota will be decided by next week after the visit of a delegation of Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) on June 20. The delegation, still not designated or named by the OCA, is set to meet the Organising Committee of the AYG 2017, which includes top governmental officials.

The chances of Sri Lanka retaining the hosting right of the AYG 2017 in Hambantota has been diluted to a minimal, according to unofficial reports. The visiting OCA delegation will make a final verdict after inspecting the progress Sri Lanka had made, since being granted an extra period of three months to make implementations.

Sri Lanka was officially picked to host the AYG 2017 in Nanjing, China at the closing ceremony of the second edition of the Games in 2013 - File pic

“The OCA has made the decision, but it will probably be officially announced in three months’ time. I’m glad it’s been taken away because the (Sri Lankan) parliament won’t let the organising committee do its job. Only the cricket ground is in place for the Games, but nothing else at all has been built,” a senior official of OCA was quoted as saying to Sport Business International, a website that portrays sports related news stories on March 31.

If the report stands as factual, the OCA delegation’s visit to Sri Lanka aptly times the deadline of the three-month extension granted in March. By end of March international media reported that the OCA has stripped Sri Lanka of its right to host the AYG 2017. It was further reported that Wei JiZhong and Haider Farman, the two OCA officials who visited Sri Lanka, warned the host city of Hambantota of the consequences earlier this year as ‘Sri Lanka had, and still has, failed to begin any preparation of the Games’.

“They (OCA) gave us three months to prove our capability, which I think is a fair duration for any country to get into action. The delegation will meet the organising committee and will decide where Hambantota stands with regard to the AYG 2017,” NOC chief Hemasiri Fernando stated.

However a highly informed governmental source revealed that Sri Lankan authorities are highly optimistic of its capabilities. Local authorities are of the view that they can convince the visiting OCA delegation with a new plan — to stage the AYG 2017 in two cities.
“Colombo will be added up in addition to Hambantota. Colombo already has the required infrastructural and stadium requirements, so the government will not have to spend on new stadiums. We will forward this proposal to the visiting delegation and I’m sure there won’t be any major issues. Sri Lanka is ready and is looking forward to hold the AYG 2017,” the highly informed source said.

Sri Lanka’s new plan will have the AYG 2017 split into two cities with the track and field and major sports being proposed to be held in Colombo while closer to eight of 16 sports disciplines, such as beach games, will be proposed to be held in Hambantota.

Nevertheless the visiting delegation will observe the work progress as well as the implementation of Sri Lanka’s original ‘promising global plan’ which happened to impress OCA officials JiZhong, a Life Vice President and Farman, the Director of Asian Games Department, who visited the country in mid March. The two OCA officials, who had a field visit to Hambantota then, said that they ‘would like to look at Sri Lanka’s capabilities in a positive angle’, while expressing concerns on the progress the country had made with preparations.

They then had lengthy discussions with the officials of the National Olympic Committee (NOC), the AYG Secretarial officials, which included top government bureaucrats, Minister Dilan Perera and Ajith Nivad Cabraal, the Governor of the Central Bank.

The visit of JiZhong and Farman in March had the danger of the hosting rights of AYG 2017 being stripped off from Hambantota but after much persuasion Sri Lanka was granted further three months to act. This period was granted to Sri Lanka to prove why the OCA should not strip them from hosting the AYG 2017 in Hambantota.

With the AYG 2017 gradually slipping away from Hambantota, it is now reported that Indonesia’s second largest city, Surabaya is likely to host the Games. Surabaya was awarded the hosting right of the 4th AYG in 2021 but with the latest development, which is yet to be announced officially, they will host the third edition of AYG.

“There are enough of takers if the OCA decides to take the Games away from Hambantota. It is premature to say anything on that because nothing is said or decided officially. Nothing is certain at this point until we get an official word from the OCA,” Fernando added.

Hambantota decided on bidding for the AYG 2017 after losing its bid to host a much bigger event, the Commonwealth Games 2018, which eventually went in favour of the next bidder, the Gold Coast of Australia. On June 15, 2012 the OCA officially announced that Hambantota was chosen as the host of the AYG 2017 from other bids which came from Indonesia, Qatar, Thailand, the United Arab Emirates and Uzbekistan.

Moreover the spat between the authorities of the local Ministry of Sports and the National Olympics Committee, which is yet to be resolved fully, will also have a partial contribution if Sri Lanka’s hosting right of the AYG 2017 is taken off from Hambantota. The OCA became discontented with the conduct of the local authorities assigned to man the organising and working committees of the AYG 2017.

The OCA made repeated calls, sent an official letter warning of the consequences befire sending two of their top officials on a fact finding visit, but according to reports none of these opportunities had been appropriately made use of by the local authorities. However the final and official verdict is expected after the visit of the OCA delegation on June 20.

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