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Domestic sports events put on hold in Sri Lanka

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The Ministry of Defence has advised sports associations and organisers of sports events to hold back competitions and events for a few more days, until the prevailing security situation of the country eases, inthe aftermath of the Easter Sunday terrorist attacks which claimed over 250 lives. Last Sunday, April 21, few notable sporting events were called off, while Sri Lanka Schools Rugby Football Association (SLSRFA) postponed its first week matches of the second round of the Singer Schools Rugby League Championship, immediately after last Sunday’s attacks.

In addition to the five-week second round fixtures, the National Age Group Swimming Relay Championship, scheduled to begin on April 27, has been rescheduled for May 11. A top official of the Ministry of Defence stated that with the prevailing security situation, sports event organisers should obtain a security clearance, with the country still remaining on red alert.

“Conducting sport events under the present circumstances, is not recommended as an event or a match could draw a certain number of people as spectators. It is not wise to have events when the security situation is yet to improve after the deadly attacks, and there is a need of coorporation among all to prevent being possible targets,” the official said.

Last Sunday, the organisers of 27th Fox Hill Supercross in Diyatalawa. called off the annual event halfway through, while an upscale horseracing event organised by the Royal Turf Club in Nuwara Eliya, was cancelled immediately, even before take off.

Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) had planned a three-day bonding camp for its 15-man squad for the World Cup 2019 at the Special Forces facility in Maduru Oya followed by a five-day training camp in Dambulla. But SLC called off both pre-training programmes and the cricket team will leave for England on May 7 to engage in a three-week training session, prior to their first game of the ICC CWC 2019 on June 1.

The Ministry of Sports, while making the same recommendations, stated that sports associations do not necessarily need to get their clearance, but advised organisers to seek clearance of the local police station, in the area where the event is held.

“We cannot prevent sports events from taking place and going on. But with the present situation it is highly advisable to be ethical and practical before going ahead with an event. As the Ministry of Sports, we recommend that sports associations observe the situation during the coming days before deciding on conducting events,” Dhammika Muthugala, the Director General of Ministry of Sports told the Sunday Times.

The Ministry of Sports and Ministry of Defence will hold discussions tomorrow separately on allowing sports and public events from taking place in the coming weeks. The Ministry of Sports, according to Mr. Muthugala, will go ahead with its District level competitions of the National Sports Festival, which is scheduled to culminate in September with the overall championship, but on the events that are scheduled for the coming weeks, they are still undecided.

“The events of the National Sports Festival for marathon, race walking, cycling, elle and badminton will take place as planned on May 23, 24 and 25 in Anuradhapura. But it is too early to say if other events planned for coming weeks will take place. We may have to decide on this after assessing the security situation of the country, we are planning to hold a discussion this week. We will have another round of discussion with the District Sports Secretaries on May 7 with regard to the National Sports Festival,” Mr. Muthugala added.

On Wednesday, women Triple Jumper Vidusha Lakshani won a bronze medal at the 23rd Asian Athletic Championship, Sri Lanka’s solitary medal from the Qatar event while the Women’s 4x400m relay team broke a 20-year-old Sri Lanka record by clocking 3 minutes and 03.06 seconds despite finishing overall fourth in the final.

Lakshani’s feat was overshadowed by the tragic events that occurred last Sunday, where over 250 lives were lost and over 500 were injured by the deadly suicide attacks that rocked Sri Lanka. It is uncertain when normalcy would return to the lives of Sri Lankans, adding woes to organisers of sporting events where safety of athletes and spectators will be a great concern.

Sri Lanka Rugby, however, will go ahead with the planned two practice matches between Sri Lanka and Malaysia, to be played in Kuala Lumpur on May 1 and 4, as a preparation for the upcoming Asia Rugby Division I Championship to be held in Chinese Taipei on May 29 and June 1. But they called of a three-day preparation camp scheduled to be held at the Welisara Naval Base.

Sri Lanka is still in a state of shock, and security has been beefed up around the country after a confrontation between security forces and suspected terrorists, believed to have links with the ISIS near Kalmunai, on Friday. It looks as though sports activities around the country will have a brief break until the security situation improves and the day-to-day activities of the public return to normalcy.

By the Sunday Times Sports Desk

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