By: Tom Degun
August 9 – Hambantota is hopeful that its bid to host the 2018 Commonwealth Games will receive a major boost this week as the African Commonwealth delegation arrived in Sri Lanka to look at the plans to stage the event.
The votes of the African delegation are likely to play a crucial role in deciding who will host the competition when the decision is announced at the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) General Assembly in St Kitts and Nevis on November 11.
The African delegation has already visited Hambantota's only rival for the event – the Gold Coast – and admitted they were highly impressed with what they saw in the Australian city last month.
However, Hambantota now have their own chance to impress the African delegation and Ajith Nivard Cabraal, the Hambantota co-chairman and Governor of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka, is hopeful Africa will want to take the event to a new country after seeing the success of the South Africa 2010 FIFA World Cup last year, which marked the first time the event was held in Africa.
"Africa shares our vision for life-changing sport," said Cabraal.
"Sport can be transformational, especially for children and young people and a prudent approach to bidding for and hosting major events can be the catalyst for sustainable social and economic development.
"We think there are clear synergies in how we are harnessing the power of sport to build a better tomorrow for our people."
The visit from the African delegation is the second 2018 voters' visit to Sri Lanka following the inspection from the Caribbean delegation last month.
Sri Lanka is vying to become the tenth country to host the Games in its 80 year history and Cabraal is confident they can achieve that dream.
"For us there is much more at stake than simply tourism and revenue generation," he said.
"As a unified nation Sri Lanka is on an exciting and progressive journey driven by its 10-year plan taking Sri Lanka to 2020.
"Bidding for and hosting the Games in 2018 is an integral part of this journey and will act as a catalyst in helping to achieve these ambitions together."
There will be 71 Commonwealth nations and territories eligible to vote for where the 2018 Commonwealth Games in staged on November 11 but the African delegation is highly important as they represent 19 votes.
Following their visit to Hambantota, the city will welcome delegations from Europe and Oceania next month before a visit from the Asian delegation in October.