November 17 - Hambantota has blamed the chaos of last year's Commonwealth Games in New Delhi and the intervention of Canada for its failure to win its bid to host the 2018 edition of the event, as the campaign's leaders Ajith Nivard Cabraal and Mahindananda Aluthgamage both complained that they suffered from a bias against smaller countries hosting the event.
The Sri Lankan city were beaten 43-27 by its only rival, the Gold Coast, at the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) General Assembly in St Kitts and Nevis last Friday (November 11).
Upon his return to the capital Colombo, the co-chairman of Hambantoa 2018, Cabraal (pictured above right), claimed that their bid was scuppered by a late intervention from Commonwealth Games Canada.
"At the last minute Canada brought a proposal that India did not conduct the  Games well and that some payments have not been made yet," said Cabraal.
"No doubt this was countered, but it created uncertainty among the members."
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has been the most fierce critic of Sri Lankan's human rights record and at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Perth last month had threatened to oppose Hambantota's bid unless they addressed the issue seriously.
Canada's opposition both in Perth and St Kitts damaged Hambantota's chances, Cabraal claimed.
"As a result I think that may have hurt our chances to a some extent, although we know that one of the most successful Games was conducted in India," said Cabraal, the Governor of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka.
"This lobby appeared to be designed to give some kind of a feeling that Asian countries are unable to have very good Games.
"That also may have gone against us to some extent."
Aluthgamage (pictured above left), the Sports Minister who was the other co-chairman of the bid, also criticised the bidding process.
"There is an injustice and we saw that small countries do not get a chance to hold these Games," he said.
But, despite Sri Lanka losing the bid, the process helped to improve Sri Lanka's image and boosted the tourism industry, Aluthgamage admitted.
It also provided an opportunity to draw attention to Hambantatoa, which is being developed as the country's second economic city, he said.
Cabraal insisted that they have not yet given any thought about whether to launch a bid for the 2022 Commonwealth Games but they would push ahead with their ambitious plans to turn Hambantota into a major sporting hub.
"We have not thought of bidding for the 2022 Games but our plan on making Hambantota a sports city will go ahead as planned despite the loss," he said.
By Duncan Mackay