Gold Coast wins Commonwealth Games 2018, Sri Lanka feels the snub

IF you haven’t yet caught up with the news about the 2018 Commonwealth Games yet then check out the Gold Coast bid site with the simple image “We did it”.

This of course refers to the Gold Coast’s successful bid to host the 2018 Commonwealth Games, a win of 43 votes to 27 over Hambantota in Sri Lanka.

The victory was particularly sweet for a state that has battled throughout the year to recover from floods and cyclones that hit early in 2011.

Ms Bligh added this is a great way for Queensland to end the year, after such a traumatic start to 2011 with natural disasters around the state.

“I started the year by saying that Queenslanders were the ones who got knocked down and knew how to get back up again and today we’ve proved that.”

You can also see the reaction of Anna Bligh (Queensland Premier) and Gold Coast residents to the announcement on this video.

Of course, Sri Lanka is no stranger to adversity either, on a much grander scale too, having overcome the ravages of a 20-year civil war to successfully co-host the 2011 Cricket World Cup. It will also host the 2016 South Asian Games in Hambantota.

In fac, one caller to Queensland’s ABC radio after the decision was announced on Saturday reminded Queenslanders that the predicted $2 billion economic windfall for the southeast Queensland region as a result of the Games would also mean Sri Lanka would be denied the opportunity to develop.

The caller said he planned to make a donation into a Sri Lankan charity or organisation to compensate in some way and urged other Queenslanders to do the same. This may in some way allay the concerns of many comments I read on various websites that the votes were rigged and even supported white colonial powers. Australia is also not without disappointment in the history of these bids, having lost the FIFA World Cup to Qatar only last year.

The Associated Press has reported that Sri Lankans are disappointed to have lost the bid and the chance to develop sport on the island nation.

Sunil Gunawardena, a veteran athlete and coach, said hosting would have given Sri Lanka a chance to “turn a new leaf in the country’s sports history ” after the end of a three decades civil war.

Sugath Thilakaratne, an athlete who earned a bronze medal in 1998 games, agreed it is a lost chance to boost Sri Lankan sports.

“It could have been a huge challenge for Sri Lanka to hold this event, but it would help to generate enthusiasm among the public and would make a tremendous boost to the local sports,” Thilakaratne said.

The Associated Press elaborated on some reasons behind the decision:

Gold Coast’s bid was based largely on the use of existing facilities while Hambantota, a city largely devastated by the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami, promised to deliver brand new stadiums, an international airport and other infrastructure by 2016.

The Commonwealth Games Federation Evaluation Commission said it was satisfied that Hambantota could guarantee a “safe and peaceful” games, but warned that significant investment was needed in telecommunications infrastructure, transport and hospitals and said staging the games there presents a “medium-to-high risk” compared with the “low risk” of the Gold Coast.

Hambantota is without doubt a promising region and I have earmarked it for a return visit to Sri Lanka.  It is also pleasing that there are still plans to develop it. Again from the Associated Press:

Central Bank Governor and bid chairman Ajith Nivard Cabraal described the losing of bid as “disappointing” but said plans to develop Hambantota as a strategic economic hub will continue.

“We have said all along that bidding for these prestigious Games is a key part of an exciting and progressive journey in Sri Lanka,” Cabraal said on the bid Website. “Together we have embarked on a new era. And we will make good our promise to rejuvenate the region regardless of this outcome.”