September 24 - Hambantota's bid to host the 2018 Commonwealth Games has received a massive boost after its concept was widely praised by European delegates who have just completed a visit to the Sri Lankan city.
The group representing Cyprus, England, Gibraltar, Guernsey, Isle of Man, Jersey, Malta, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales share 10 votes between them, which could be crucial at the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) General Assembly in St Kitts and Nevis on November 11 when Hambantota will face its only rival, the Gold Coast.
"The concept for the Games being held there is quite superb," said Don Parker, the director of sport for Commonwealth Games England, who are due to hold a meeting in London next month to discuss who they should vote for.
"The concept for the Games being held there is quite superb.
"The [Athletes'] Village looks like it will be an excellent Village for the athletes, the venues are all very close to where the athletes will stay, the venues look as though they are going to be world class in terms of facilities, and we've also found the Sri Lankan people we've met to be very friendly and very professional."
Parker's comments were echoed by Michael Cavanagh, the chairman of Commonwealth Games Scotland, who is also a member of the Board of Directors for Glasgow 2014, the next host of the Games.
"If you're successful in winning the 2018 Games then it will be a fantastic catalyst for development, not just for Hambantota but throughout the country and that is of course the main reason for bidding for the Games - it's not just about 11 days of sport, it's about what it can do for your country and people, and certainly the concept we've seen here is a fantastic concept," he said.
Alan Cross, the Jersey Commonwealth Games Association President, admitted that he was surprised by the quality of the bid from Hambantota, who have been the outsiders since the race begun but with less than 50 days to go are now considered to be a genuine threat.
"People haven't realised what excellent potential you have until quite recently and visits like this open people's eyes to the future and the potential you have in putting on a Games," he said.
Sri Lanka's Sports Minister and co-chairman of the Hambantota 2018 Organising Committee, Mahindananda Aluthgamage, welcomed the backing for the bid.
"I am very pleased the delegation recognises the excellent potential of the city to host such an event," he said.
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