Two years after convincing the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) to award the country hosting rights for the 2017 Asian Youth Games, Sri Lanka looks set to give up the job over lack of preparedness and concerns over finances.
The government is unable to foot the bill for the facilities and venues to host the expected 5000 participants representing 45 nations in Asia’s biggest sporting event for budding athletes, authoritative sources said.
After heavy lobbying in April this year, Sri Lanka secured a three month extension to meet OCA requirements and, thereby, retain hosting rights. But with a month already gone, little progress has been made.
“It’s very unlikely that we would host it,” confirmed an official close to the National Olympic Committee. “We have fallen absolutely behind in preparing for the Games. One month has elapsed and I don’t see a concerted effort by the authorities to put things together for the Games.”
Sri Lanka has estimated that it would cost a staggering US$ 300 million, approximately Rs. 40 billion, for a successful hosting of the event. But since winning the rights in 2012, it has done little to justify selection.
In January it became clear that the OCA was unhappy with progress. OCA President Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah wrote to Sri Lankan authorities requesting to expedite preparations or face the consequence of being stripped of hosting rights.
“Even after one-and-a-half years of the allotment of the Games we see no progress in the conduct of the Games,” the letter states, adding that, “no one is taking responsibility for the organisation”.
There followed a fact-finding mission by Wei Jizhong, Life Vice-President OCA, and Haider Farman, Director, and the Asian Games Department OCA in March 2014. They, too, concluded that Sri Lanka was well behind in preparations.
“You have a very promising global plan but it’s a big challenge,” Mr Jizhong said at a press conference on March 13.
“The implementation of this magnificent plan started a little bit too late. So you should take all necessary measures from now on. Any delay may bring in negative impact because in today’s changing world, uncertainty under any circumstances, you do not have time to remedy the problems.”
“On the negative side there’s no master plan, no programme at ground level and we only saw the same proposal that we saw back in last November today,” Mr Farman said, also at the press conference.
No official decision has yet been taken and it looks inevitable that Sri Lanka will lose the Games with urgent requirements not being met. Hambantota was chosen as the venue by the OCA in 2012 after seeing off competition from Qatar, Thailand, the United Arab Emirates and Uzbekistan, as well as Indonesia.
Insidethegames.biz, a UK based website, reported on April 1, 2014, that Hambantota will be stripped of the hosting rights, although this is unlikely to be officially confirmed for several months.
Sri Lanka has never played host to any multi-disciplinary event at Asian level and their 2006 hosting of the South Asian Games had cost an astounding Rs. 1 billion with the government pumping in nearly two-thirds of the total cost.