by Gamini Weerakoon
Watching pre-Olympic Games programmes on TV made us realise how much the Olympic Games even in this hi-tech age is dependent on torch bearers. For weeks the Olympic torch was carried from town to town in Britain and finally from borough to borough in London. It made us realise that carrying torches too is a part of the Sri Lankan heritage.
Never mind the ancient times when our torch bearers were vassals to monarchs who may have had the heads of poor torch bearers chopped off if they did not perform their duties well enough.
Even today we have torch bearers as you may have seen in the pereheras now on but their heads are completely safe.
Let’s forget history for the moment and reflect on present times. Even in the present day we are a nation of great torch bearers – ‘Pandangkarayas’. The Sinhala term has evolved over the times and today’s ‘Pandangkarayas’ need not be physical torch bearers. There are the courtiers around the powers that be – sycophants, hangers on with Teflon smiles directed at the powers that be and guffawing at remarks that are meant to be jokes whether they are jokes or not and of course willing to do any dirty thing.
Yes, we are a nation of torch bears (‘Pandangkarayas’) both in the past and present and why not use this heritage of torch bearing common to both the Olympic Games and Sri Lankans to stake claims to stage the 2020 Olympic Games?
Rio de Janeiro is already agreed on for the 2016 and Sri Lanka under the sporting Rajapakas (if they are there till 2020) should make claim for next time around. Remember our daring bid to stage the 2018 Commonwealth Games at Hambantota? According to our government estimates itself it would have cost Rs 265 billion (at 2011 prices).
Sri Lankan Yahoos (Yakkos) will say we couldn’t have afforded it but don’t forget this daring financial adventure was led by the country’s Central Bank Governor who would have known his onions. Critics however say that Cabraal does not know anything about onions, big or small.
He took a Mihin Air planeload of 130 passengers – athletes, cricketers, hangers on and even a film star and her mother to St. Kitts in the Caribbean where the venue was to be decided.
The actor, entertainer and Central Bank Governor even played kindergarten games like playing ‘trains’ with politician Namal Rajapaksa at a reception they hosted to impress upon the judges of the kind of sporting chaps we are. But the judges were not amused and instead awarded it to Australia.
The Sri Lankan attempt, only to stage the Commonwealth Games, is estimated to have cost Rs 800 million – mainly for canvassing programmes such as a trip to the last World Rugby Cup played in New Zealand where our high spending campaign strategists had purchased a ‘corporate box’ – the prize of such boxes having ranged from $471,000 NZ to $88,000.
16 million loaves of bread
Millions and billions are spoken of today like peanuts and Cadju nuts confuse us about the actual amounts involved. A sobering thought is that Rs 800 million divided by the cost of a loaf of bread at Rs 50 indicates that 16 million loaves of bread could have been provided to the hungry masses.
It has been said that of the Rs 800 million, Rs 700 million had come from the private sector and only Rs 100 million were from the state but the identity of the private sector contributors cannot be divulged. This is very much in keeping with the modern day economic philosophy of sustainable corruption. When you contribute one unidentified money bag you can get two or more unidentified many bags in return.
Perhaps we do not understand the basic strategy involved in the development of Hambantota into a Rajapaksa Wonderland and its strategic importance. Last week we were listening to cricket commentaries of the 4th ODI between India and Sri Lanka. A Sri Lankan commentator, while the match was on, went into ecstasies about the wonder that is Hambantota – highways, harbour, airport, cricket stadium and of course its strategic location.
The Indian commentator with him was not impressed. The only thing strategic about the location of Hambantota is its proximity to the Yala wildlife park, he quipped and that ended the song of Hambantota.
Of late some Sri Lankan commentators and even a foreigner have lapsed into the glories of Hambantota even if the game is played elsewhere such as when it was at R. Premadasa Stadium last week. It is time cricket commentators were told not to be torch bearers to promoters of Hambantota even though holding ‘pandang’ is a part of our heritage. This trend of mixing up political propaganda with cricket should be halted by the ICC.
The cost of the London Olympics is estimated a 24 billion pounds sterling and usually the cost overruns of countries staging the games is well over 100 per cent. The cost overruns and debts incurred at the Athens Olympics is said to have substantially worsened the financial and economic crisis of Greece.
Here we hasten to note that there is a claim of a historical nexus between the Greeks and the Sinhalese. The Hellenes and the Sinhalese (Hellas) have a great deal in common according to some of the Munidasa Kumaratunga School of linguistics. Given such affinities with the Greeks, there is no reason not to follow their example even to an economic hell. The Greeks have the European Union to help and we have the Chinese.
So, let’s start preparing for the Olympics 2020 at the Mahinda Rajapaksa Magampura Olympic Village in Hambantota. We too must contribute to the evolution of Olympics. Let’s have a separate section for political Olympics. We have world champions in political jumps: long jump, high jump, hop-step-and-a-jump and pole vault not forgetting pick pocketing and bribing. Some of these star performers have already demonstrated their prowess in the jumps by jumping effortlessly from the UNP into the government ranks.
Perhaps they may be too old for the 2020 Olympics but the encouraging feature is that their sons, daughters, nephews and nieces are taking to the family sports. What about costs? The Rajapaksas never worry about costs. If they succeed, well and good. If they fail the incoming suckers will face the music. courtesy: The Sunday leader