By Tom Degun
June 14 - Ajith Nivard Cabraal, the co-chairman of Hambantota 2018 and Governor of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka, has claimed hosting the Commonwealth Games would showcase to the world that the country has truly emerged from the devastating tsunami in 2004 which ripped the area to pieces.
Hambantota was one of the cities hit the hardest by the Indian Ocean tsunami just over six years ago that left more than 35,000 people dead in Sri Lanka.
The majority of buildings in Hambantota were destroyed and over 500,000 people were left homeless but the coastal city has since undergone a number of major development projects as part of the recovery from the disaster.
These include the construction of a new seaport, a new international airport and an international cricket stadium, which hosted matches during the 2011 ICC Cricket World Cup, but Cabraal believes that Hambantota winning the right to stage the 2018 Commonwealth Games would unequivocally show to the world that the country has finally overcome the damage left by the tsunami.
"It [the Commonwealth Games] gives the opportunity for Sri Lanka to showcase to the world that we have emerged out of the Tsunami, that we have emerged out of the conflict and that we have truly reconciled," said Cabraal.
"So this will give us a great opportunity to show to the world how Sri Lanka has transformed itself and also give us the sense of occasion, as well as catalytic effect to bring about that change.
"So I think it will be an absolutely life changing exercise and experience for Sri Lanka and we are hoping that we will have a great chance of hosting the Games."
Hambantota are currently locked in a two-horse race to host the 2018 Commonwealth Games against the Gold Coast in Australia.
Both cities are set face the most important stage of the bid so far with the 2018 Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) Evaluation Commission, chaired by Scotland's Louise Martin, set to visit both candidate cities later this month.
The Commission will visit the Gold Coast from June 20-23, before travelling to Hambantota from June 27-30, but Cabraal is in confident mood ahead of the technical inspection and feels that a Commonwealth Games in Sri Lanka can provide a real legacy that will impress the CGF.
"We are going to have Hambantota developed to be a sport city and, at the same time, the sport city will have other areas of commercial interest," he said.
"For example it will also be an IT city and together with the seaport that is now being developed and the airport that is being developed, we will have another area from which Sri Lanka's growth will be supported.
"So we will have several pockets of growth in Sri Lanka which will then ensure that the entire country can be developed so that it [the 2018 Commonwealth Games] can be a truly inspiring event for the city as well as the country.
"But it will also be a fantastic opportunity for the Commonwealth to show that there are emerging countries who can come forward to host the Games, not just those few countries who have hosted the Commonwealth Games so far.
"There are 71 nations that constitute the Commonwealth and it is good to show that more of them are going to be competing to host the Games in the future."