The Sunday Leader

Much Awaited Commonwealth Games Begin Today

By Hishan Welmilla

Chandrika Subashini, Manju Wanniarachchi, Chinthana Vidanage, Shehan Ambepitiya, Sharya Guruge, Thilini Jayasinghe, Manjula Kumara

The curtain of the 19th Edition of the Commonwealth Games (CWG) will rise today (October 3) at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, in Delhi ending months of doubts over staging the first ever Commonwealth Games to be held in India. The opening ceremony is scheduled to take place at the main stadium of the Delhi Games, the Jawaharlal Nehru.
Seventy two countries including a strong contingent from host nation India will battle for glory in this 12-day event scheduled to be concluded on October 14
The organisers have made arrangements to have one of the best opening shows and it will highlight “The Great Indian Journey.” The stage is 80 feet by 40 feet, encircled by a 30-foot area, which will host the 45-minute cultural extravaganza showcasing the best of Indian diversity and culture.
For the first time in the history of the CWG, the athletes will march into the stadium during the opening segment of the ceremony after which they will take their seats to enjoy the ceremony.
The Queen’s Baton will arrive at the stadium completing its’ 170,000km journey across the 72 Commonwealth nations and territories. The Baton will be received by HRH Prince of Wales who will read the Queen’s message, which ends with the opening of the Games.
The President of India will then deliver her address and signal the commencement of the Games.
The Sri Lankan contingent numbering 136 athletes and officials took wing last Thursday (September 30). This will be Sri Lanka’s largest ever contingent for the Commonwealth Games.
The Sri Lanka team will take part in 14 disciplines namely: Archery, Athletics, Badminton, Boxing, Cycling, Gymnastics, Rugby Sevens, Squash, Shooting, Swimming, Synchronized Swimming, Table Tennis, Tennis, Weightlifting and Wrestling. Sri Lanka will not be represented in Diving, Field Hockey, and Netball.
The skipper of the Sri Lankan contingent, Commonwealth Games’ Gold medalist Chinthana Vidanage will make another attempt to defend his title but it will be in a different weight category. Vidanage who won his first Gold medal in the 62kg category at the CWG in 2006 will compete in the men’s 69kg category this year and will be one of the best medal prospects for Sri Lanka.
There are many experienced athletes in the Sri Lankan squad, which also includes new athletes who are taking part in an international event for the first time. Among the experienced athletes who have been selected for the Games are  Heshan Unamboowe who captained Sri Lanka at the Youth Olympics in Singapore, experienced swimmer Conrad Francis, athletes Shehan Ambepitiya, marathon runner Chaminda Wijekoon, high jumper Manjula Kumara, short distance runner Chandrika Subashini and javelin thrower Nadeeka Lakmali. Much is expected of them.
Badminton players Thilini Jayasinghe, Niluka Karunaratne and Dinuka Karunaratne, boxer Manju Wanniarachchi, squash players Sharya Guruge, Navin Samarasinghe, table tennis players Nuwani Nawodya and Rohan Sirisena, and tennis player Harshana Godamanna are some of the others with notable achievements to their name.
This year there will be six handicapped sportsmen representing Sri Lanka. Thanuja Viduranga, K.P. Jayatilake will take part in the para athletics events while Sanath Sirisena Kumara and Sandun Vasana Perera will compete in para weight lifting events. Nilika Thilakarathna and Sunil Amarasinghe will compete in swimming events.
A special media briefing was held last Wednesday at Olympic House under the patronage of the Sports Minister C.B. Ratnayake together with President, Sri Lanka Olympic Committee (NOC), Hemasiri Fernando .
NOC Chief Fernando said that he was happy to note that India has taken every possible step to host the event as scheduled.  “I am sure that India will host this event successfully,” added Fernando.
The High Commissioner of India, Ashok K. Kantha also participated in the media briefing and he assured the athletes will be well looked after in India.
CWG 2010 will be the largest multi-sport event conducted by India after it hosted the Asian Games in 1951 and 1982. It will also be the first time the Commonwealth Games is held in India and the second time the event is held in Asia (the first being in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia in 1998).
The event has been troubled by a series of issues and was highly criticised by many countries.
India has had to overcome many obstacles including bad weather, the withdrawal of top athletes, preparation delays, a shooting near the stadium and the ever present threat of an attack by terrorists according to security experts in charge of security at the Games. However, with the participating teams finally agreeing to take part, the Games are expected to begin on schedule.

Enjoining Order Stops Sri Lanka Relay Team

The District Court of Colombo last Thursday issued an enjoining order preventing the National Athletic Association from sending the already selected (400X4) metre relay team to the Commonwealth Games in India.
The Additional District Judge, M. A. R. Marikkar issued the enjoining order restraining the relay team from participating at the event and issued notice on the defendants to appear in court tomorrow, October 4.
The court issued this enjoining order following an action filed by Shalitha Tharanga Ramanayake, a runner who had come third at the selections but allegedly not included in the team.  Salitha had named as party defendants the Athletic Association Sri Lanka (AASL), its President Palitha Fernando, Secretary P.D. Pinnawela, Team Manager Chandana Ekanayake, National Olympic Committee Chairman Hemasiri Fernando and the relay team members Prasanna Amarasekra, K. K. V. Senarath, U. G. Wickremasinghe, K. K.K. Seneviratne and R. D. G. N. Karunaratne who were selected to participate at the Commonwealth Games.
The AAA of Sri Lanka had taken a decision to exclude athlete Shalitha Rathnayake from the athletic squad due to his non participation in the trial arranged by the AA with the agreement of all coaches of the six athletes in the squad in order to select the final four athletes who will compete at the event.
AAA Sri Lanka’s decision was challenged by Rathnayake. Dr. Jayatissa de Costa, President’s Counsel with H. Wijeratne instructed by Lahiru N. Silva appeared for the plaintiff Salitha Ramanayake.
The Sri Lankan athletics squad left the island for the CWG on September 30.
— HW

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