Source: www.insidethegames.bizBy Tom Degun in New Delhi
October 16 – Nalin Attygalle (pictured left), the man behind Hambantota's bid for the 2018 Commonwealth Games, claimed it would have been wrong for the Sri Lankan city to give a presentation to voters at an annual meeting ahead of the Opening Ceremony as it could have been viewed as an attack on India.
The Hambantota team were widely criticised for failing to give an optional presentation on their bid to Prince Edward, the Vice Patron of the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF), and other high ranking officials who will decide where the 2018 Games will be held.
The Gold Coast in Australia, Hambantota's only rival for the event, gave a flawless performance at the meeting.
However, Attygalle said that while Hambantota regret the fact they couldn't show voters the strength of their bid in a presentation, they made the decision so as not to upset their strong allies India.
Attygalle told insidethegames: "Avoiding the presentation is something we have been heavily criticised for and something Hambantota would like to address, so let me explain.
"The presentations were scheduled to take place prior to the Opening Ceremony, and if you think back to what the circumstances were like for Delhi back then, the whole world - particularly the Indian media - were heavily criticising the Games and the Organising Committee.
"They were saying things like the Games is not going to happen, it is a complete failure and that only bad things will happen from the event.
"Some of the Western media were even saying it was the wrong decision to award the Games to an Asian country.
"Now, India is like Sri Lanka's big brother and at a time when India is under attack, does anybody really want Hambantota and Sri Lanka - a close friend of India - to give a presentation saying we can do a much better job than Delhi when the city is in trouble?
"If we had shown the strength of our bid at that stage, as another Asian city, it would have highlighted some of Delhi's weaknesses in the build-up to the Games and it could have had huge repercussions on the relationship between India and Sri Lanka.
"Therefore, it was a strategic decision we made as a team not to take up the kind offer to give an optional presentation.
"Yes, missing an opportunity to showcase what a fantastic Commonwealth Games Hambantota can host in 2018 is one minus point but maintaining good relations going forward is two plus points.
"We also knew from the start that India would do a far better job than the media had predicted so we thought it would be best for us to start our talking after Delhi now that things have gone quite well, as we predicted.
"India showed they have world class facilities to host a major sporting event and though there were a few problems along the way, that is a minor issue and India has done well.
"If you now ask to hear about Hambantota, we would be delighted to tell all about our beautiful city because India has overcome criticism to show that Asia can host a Commonwealth Games and host it well."
Attygalle added that a 2018 Commonwealth Games in Hambantota would be far different to Delhi 2010 because India was aiming to prove it could host an Olympic and Paralympic Games in the future.
He said: "India have built their Commonwealth Games on a huge scale so it has been like a mini-Olympics.
"It looks very much like the Games have been designed as a platform for the Olympics.
"But my only concern with that is that Commonwealth standards and Olympic standards are two different things.
"In the future, I think we must be aware of this and Hambantota would certainly conduct the Games in a far more compact way.
"The city is building and improving its infrastructure all the time following the devastation of the Tsunami [which decimated the country in 2004] and the Commonwealth Games would really help us continue to do that and provide a real sporting legacy to the people of Sri Lanka.
"We would conduct the 2018 Games in a very organised, very efficient way so that it wouldn't have any of the logistical problems Delhi had.
"But we on the Hambantota 2018 bid team are very proud of Delhi for showing that an Asian country can host a strong Commonwealth Games and I have learnt so much from being here and participating in the Candidate City Observer programme.
"We can now take the strengths of Delhi but also learn from the weaknesses."