By Nick Butler at the Olympic Council of Asia Headquarters in Kuwait City

Hambantota is set to be stripped of the 2017 Asian Youth Games ©Hambantota 2017April 1 - Sri Lankan city Hambantota is facing the prospect of being stripped of the 2017 Asian Youth Games after being unable to achieve the organisational progress demanded by the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA).

Speaking at the Association of National Olympic Committees (ANOC) Executive Council meeting here, a senior official within the National Olympic Committee of Sri Lanka admitted to insidethegames differences between them and the country's Sports Ministry were yet to be resolved and no Organising Committee for the Games had been formed. 

The official claimed they were hoping to secure a three-month extension to the deadline and was confident, with the extension, the necessary improvements could be made.

But, following an OCA meeting held after the ANOC one, officials revealed to insidethegames Hambantota will be stripped of the hosting rights, although this is unlikely to be officially confirmed for several months. 

It is understood the Games will be awarded instead to the Indonesian city of Surabaya, which finished behind Hambantota in the race for 2017 and was due to host the following edition of the Games in 2021.

The Sri Lankan Flag is raised at the Closing Ceremony of the 2013 Asian Youth Games in Nanjing ©ITGThe Sri Lanka Flag is raised at the Closing Ceremony of the 2nd Asian Youth Games in Nanjing last August ©ITG

Hambantota had decided to bid for the event, expected to attract more than 5,000 athletes from 45 countries competing in 12 sports, after failing in its campaign to host the 2018 Commonwealth Games,

They were duly chosen as hosts by the OCA in 2012 after seeing off opposition from Qatar, Thailand, the United Arab Emirates and Uzbekistan, as well as Surabaya.

A Sri Lankan delegation was present during the 2nd Asian Youth Games in Nanjing last August, and received the flag at the Closing Ceremony of the Games to mark the symbolic transition to the next host. 

But it became clear in January this year that the OCA was unhappy with progress following a letter sent by OCA President Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah to both the Sri Lankan Sports Ministry and the National Olympic Committee.

The letter began by outlining how "even after one-and-a-half years of the allotment of the Games we see no progress in the conduct of the Games", before complaining that "no one is taking responsibility for the organisation". 

Sheikh Ahmad highlighted the lack of progress across areas, including the construction of venues, final Games budget and the exact sports on the programme, before giving a three-month deadline to satisfy these concerns.

But with progress not made, the prospect of losing the Games represents a major blow to Sri Lanka, which was aiming to host an international multi-sports event other than the South Asian Games for the first time.

It would also have been the first multi-sports event to be held in a city other than the capital Colombo.

On the other hand, if the Games now is awarded to Surabaya four years earlier than envisaged, this would be a major boost for the Indonesian city following its defeat to Hanoi, Vietnam, in the race for the 2019 Asian Games. 

Contact the writer of this story at [email protected]

Related stories
January 2014: Sri Lanka warned they could lose 2017 Asian Youth Games in Hambantota
August 2013: Asian Youth Games close in a whirlwind of colour and music