Finance and Media Minister Mangala Samaraweera allocated Rs. 3, 450 million to develop the country’s sports sector through his maiden budget last week.

Sports have the twin impact of building a sense of social cohesion and social capital whilst ensuring that the country achieve recognition in the international arena. In this context, Minister Samaraweera read out a series of proposals to develop the country’s sports activities in the Budget 2018.

In his budget speech the Minister said, the government plans to popularize community sports and will support this initiative by developing 100 rural playgrounds throughout the country.

He said the Talent Identification program has enabled to create pools of talent of budding young athletes at District and Provincial levels, thus, becoming the main feeding point into the National Pool.

“As such, to promote sports at the District and Provincial levels, we plan to uplift the District and Provincial sports stadiums. As such, initially, the Digana sports stadium, the Polonnaruwa District stadium and the Sandankeni sports stadium in Kalmunai will be developed during the next two years.

The Matale Hockey Ground, which is in a dilapidated state, will be rehabilitated.”

Sri Lanka has the honour of hosting the South Asia Games (SAG) in 2020. The Diyagama International Sports Complex, where the SAG games are planned to be held, will be upgraded and expanded which will include the re-laying of the tracks, development of an athletic village, an entertainment area and a muscular skeletal surgery unit.

“We will also establish a Sports School and an Academy at Diyagama which will be the training ground for the majority of our national level athletes.”

The Sugathadasa Indoor

Stadium will be modernized and managed as a Public Private Partnership (PPP). It is expected that this will attract international sports competitions and entertainment events, he said.

“The pavilion and the tracks at the Sugathadasa Outdoor Stadium will also be upgraded to international standards.

“The Human Performance laboratory will be equipped with state of the art facilities.

The issue of performance enhancing drugs has permeated into the country’s sports arena, as well. This is quite shameful. As such, we will support the implementation of a national awareness programme on anti-doping and the establishment of a drug testing and research laboratory.”

Minister Samaraweera also paid attention to the underprivileged youngsters from the provinces. “I understand that the cost of sports shoes has become a major impediment in attracting our village youth into competitive sports. Therefore, I wish to propose that the para-tariffs imposed on import of sports shoes be removed.”

He said the government will also support the veterans and the differently abled who represent the country in international sports competitions such as the Asian Masters Championships and Paralympics.

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