Punchi vs Godzilla: On your marks, get set, Hambantota

Elmo Jayawardena

The Delhi pre games debacle is over and the spectacular finale was a triumph for Mother India where many an expert had to eat some of the very un-savourable words they said about the incredible samosa land and its capabilities to run the Commonwealth Games. True a dog may have run across the track and this was splashed on prime time TV in ridicule. So what? Don’t forget the pizza stand girl who sprinted stark naked through the center court at Wimbledon finals stunning Roger Federer.

What’s the difference? The dog and the Grand Slam Godiva were both clad in their birthday suits. The tennis went on and so did the Commonwealth Games. Pity that the first world’s goose brought laughter while the third world gander got laughed at. Too bad that we have always been served with different spoons dating back to colonial times. It is a legacy of belonging to the so called “lesser people” and accepting the role without protesting for equality.   

Now a new race has begun, Brisbane against Hambantota. Apart from a Sri Lankan I do not think many outsiders could even pronounce the name of the probable 2018 commonwealth venue. They sure would not know where in this planet Hambantota is. Conclusion- Brisbane has the pole position.

The Sri Lankan Commonwealth Games site was only salt pans and Leonard Wolf and flattened totally by the tsunami. The rebirth of the town began only a few years ago. On the other hand, Brisbane and the Gold Coast are well known and so well patronised, from skimpy bikinis to starched Savile Row. Yachts twiddle in anchor and golf balls roll seeking holes in lush green fairways while the sun drenched holiday homes of the rich and the famous line the water’s edge.  True, a far cry from Hambantota.

That is the starting line up of the ‘Brisbane against Hambantota’ competition and the winner will host the 2018 Commonwealth games.

Let’s forget politics for once. Let’s be Sri Lankans, the same as we were when Arjuna and his boys took us to the limelight in world cricket. United we all celebrated; it was us, the Sri Lankans who had beaten the mighty to reach the pinnacle. Weren’t we proud? Man I remember what it was like; the euphoria rocketed to the zenith.

Why not apply the same formula for Hambantota 2018?  

Sad to say that while all Australians cheer and support Brisbane, we Sri Lankans have   already started the negativity fuelled by the medium of electronic communication. It is us who sling mud and look up and spit at ourselves and come out with all kinds of criticism at the very thought of Sri Lanka vying to host the games.

“Look at the poverty, how can we afford?”  “Why can’t we use the money and build houses for the homeless?” Great inference, but isn’t it somewhat a one sided evaluation. If the generous and charitable Vatican thought similar they could have sold a few renaissance paintings from the Sistine Chapel or auctioned Michelangelo’s Pieta and built houses for all the hard-core Roman Catholics who live around the world in ramshackle shanties. Maybe the G-8 can cancel one of their champagne drinking caviar eating meetings and give the money to the poor. Such things do not happen; this is the real world, less said the better, let’s go back to Hambantota.

 Brisbane no doubt is a great place for any sport. But the Australians have had the games twice. So why not give the opportunity to others? Yes, the world may not know Hambantota but this is one wonderful possibility for Sri Lanka to showcase and herald the peace cemented new dawn we are all hoping for. What does it really matter in this equation who the President would be in 2018 or who will declare open the games? Who cares which colour would be the ruling power in parliament or who’s son will run with the last baton to light the flame? The Commonwealth Games is a Sri Lankan vision, of you and me, the ordinary, being possible facilitators in a country that will host the event. Let’s focus on that and leave the politics out.

Yes, then there is the much talked about corruption, the mega word that flashes in neon when anything big happens anywhere in the world; true, there certainly will be bushels of that in our own backyard too. Where in the world is corruption not rampant in one form or the other? When Marian Jones collected Gold Medals in Sydney, wasn’t that drug corruption?  What about all the pedal pushers touring France in their fancy bicycles? Who knows? Maybe Filipe Massa is secretly giving a fix to his Ferrari for the next Grand Prix. All this is corruption, exchanging of the thirty pieces of silver.

When Delhi Games cost sky jumped through the roof, wasn’t it corruption? What about match fixing, buying umpires? All this and more make corruption a creed that is an  accepted norm of worship from gilded altars of the high and the mighty to the pavement podiums of the poor. 

The world we live in is running on wheels that are greased by corruption unless you are locked away in a Carmelite Convent or meditating in Mount Athos. There would be someone in Hambantota too who will fix inferior taps and charge superior rates and drive himself in a Chevrolet Cabriole or buy a penthouse  in an uptown condominium . So what? Corruption in one form or another is a world order? Isn’t it the acceptance of the inevitable that we have learnt to live with? Let’s not kid ourselves of a corruption less land simply because someone stands in line carrying a bucket punished for dealing under the table. Less said about such the better, let me stick to Commonwealth Games and leave the bucket argument for a fairer dawn.  

Yes, the conclusion would be as clear as crystal, a Judas or two will get rich, maybe a lot more, don’t tell me it won’t happen in Brisbane. But let the games come to Hambantota. The three decades of bloodshed that ended last May and the 2004 catastrophe that devastated coastal Sri Lanka gave rise to a breed of new rich or old rich getting richer. The war, the tsunami and even the rebuilding of a devastated nation had their share of instant Ali Babas. Hambantota may not be different, the forty thieves will be there, but let the Games begin, and let Sri Lanka have the honour to host the 2018 Commonwealth Games.

The race obviously is unbalanced, unknown Hambantota against the brilliance of Brisbane. We’ve already run a long race with the war and the tsunami, totally on bare feet that has all but worn us out, and now we are asked to run against ++horses. We sure are in David form fighting against a Goliath and that too without the benefit of a sling shot. 

But fight we must and fight collectively as Sri Lankans and not in our usual style of divisions through politics, race and religion.

Can we win? Of course we can, but it does need us all to stand and cheer as a nation.  Whoever heads the team needs support from the masses to win the venue. Each one of us is  a vote and strength to the team that is  running the race to bring the Games to Hambantota.

“If you are given lemons, learn to make lemonade,” such is the wisdom of a well used metaphor. The war is over, let’s not be happy sipping lemonade, but reach out and ask for oranges. We now have peace and we have to rise from a questionably condemned nation to where we rightly belong, a proud people, a land shared by all, irrespective of race and creed. Hambantota would be a great way to reach the world with this new visage.  

On a personal note, I hope the organisers won’t have age limits for volunteer workers.  Perhaps then, I too could be part of it, maybe drive a vehicle carrying participants and officials or get a job to shoot stray dogs with a catapult to keep them away from the running track.

Wouldn’t that be an improvement from Delhi? 

Or maybe we could arrange someone to streak across the green, naked as a new born baby and then people might think we too are from the flamboyant first world.

Capt Elmo Jayawardena



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Filed under island economy, Rajapaksa regime, reconciliation

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