August 21 - Hambantota's bid to host the 2018 Commonwealth Games has received the endorsement of Kip Keino, one of the most influential athletes in history and a member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
The Kenyan, visiting Sri Lanka to help promote the Colombo Marathon which is due to take place on October 2, has claimed that awarding the Games to Hambantota would help accelerate the development of the country's top athletes.
"I came to see what Sri Lanka can offer at Commonwealth Games in 2018," said Keino.
"What I saw here is a nation very rich with humanity, culture and great hospitality."
The Commonwealth Games played an important role in Keino's career.
It was his gold medals in the mile and three miles at the 1966 Games in Kingston, Jamaica, which launched him onto the international stage.
Two years later he won the 1500 metres at the Olympics in Mexico City and then at Munich in 1972 he claimed victory in the 3,000m steeplechase.
Keino's performances provided inspiration for more Kenyan runners to believe they could compete at the highest level, eventually leading to the dominance they enjoy now.
"I also saw a country with great potential in the field of sports," said Keino, who is now 71, after arriving in Sri Lanka.
"There are talented athletes in this country who are eager to move up to the global arena and what they need is exposure."
The Commonwealth Games Federation is due to choose the host city for 2018 at its Assembly in St Kitts and Nevis on November 11 where Hambantota will face rivals the Gold Coast.
By Duncan Mackay