The youngest Sri Lankan medallist in the history of the Commonwealth Games, Nethmi Hansika (18 years old) brought honour to her motherland, Sri Lanka. Nethmi managed in Birmingham, UK, at the 22nd Commonwealth Games in August 2022 to defeat her opponent, Australian Irene Symeonidis, to win the historic bronze medal for women. It was a 57 kg ‘Freestyle Wrestling’ event at the Commonwealth Games held in Birmingham. She chose to contest against the Australian competitor, forgetting her coach’s advice on her own to fight the competitor, who was twelve years senior and more experienced than Nethmi. Her coach’s advice was to fight the Indian competitor who fought against her in the semi-finals.
Nethmi Fernando had a one-pointed resolution to bring honour to her motherland, as opposed to some elements who intermingled with the harmless protestors at the Galle Face Green in an attempt to overthrow the Government and bring about a clean political structure, replacing the most corrupt political system in existence. Among the protestors, some were politically inclined. They managed to bring Sri Lanka to face the internationally lowest ebb.
The months-long protest managed to oust President Gotabaya Rajapaksa from office. The latest information about the ex-President was that he went from the Maldives to Singapore. Still, Singapore did not allow him to stay there but extended his stay by two weeks. The latest is that he left Singapore and landed in Thailand. Finally, he returned to Sri Lanka.
However, the looters and arsonists did quite ignominious damage to the Presidential House, Presidential Secretariat, and the Prime Minister’s abode ‘Temple Trees’ and burned down historical belongings. The damage caused by irresponsible elements ran into a few million rupees worth of invaluable effects that again need to be recovered by the citizens of Sri Lanka. Some jumped in and out of the Presidential pool, soaping and jumping back into the pool! One chap used the Presidential flag as a bed sheet and uploaded it to Facebook, which helped the Police arrest him quickly. The Police hunted down hundreds similarly.
Others who brought honour to Sri Lanka at the Commonwealth in Birmingham were Palitha Bandara (silver medal, Dilanka Kumara (bronze), and Yupun Abeykoon (bronze). The President of the Wrestling Federation’s intention would be for Nethmi Fernando to participate in a minimum of ten international tournaments before the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris. Meanwhile, National Olympic Committee (NOC) President Suresh Subramaniam predicted wrestling has a possibility of winning medals, and he has arranged an erudition for Nethmi to train in Hungary. Meanwhile, TV Derana Chairman, Dilith Jayaweera, has promised to build a new house for Nethmi and allocate Rs 50,000 monthly for her maintenance. Nethmi articulated on TV that she did not even have a mattress to practise for Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, UK.
It has been customary for a few people to take advantage of foreign visits on special tours such as cricket matches. Once, the British High Commission was amazed by the ingenuity of some of the Sri Lankans who liaised with the High Commission (before HC shifted to Bauddhaloka Mawatha) wanting to do a feature film on the UK and how the British High Commission is liaising with the British Government. They even did the initial filming of the British High Commission and thereby managed to obtain visas for the whole film crew to enter the UK. But once they landed in the UK, everyone disappeared. The story is about how craftily they organised the scheme. The filming equipment, such as professional cameras, was obtained by this sneaky group on hire.
Likewise, officials of the Wrestling Federation of Sri Lanka were perturbed by the number of people who accompanied the Commonwealth athlete team (at least ten athletes) who had escaped before the Commonwealth Games closing ceremony in Birmingham in August 2022. According to press reports, seven Sri Lanka Army and three Navy personnel. went missing. They include two boxers and two beach volleyball players.
During the Commonwealth Games, athletes participate in the Commonwealth of Nations. In 1918, athletes with a disability were included as full members of the Commonwealth Games. It thus became the primary global multi-sport event for an equal number of men and women’s events in the Commonwealth Games. The event was first held in 1930, subsequently every four years. The sports were formerly known as the British Empire Games from 1930 to 1966. The name changed to Commonwealth Games from 1954 to 1966, and further metamorphosis occurred from 1970.
The sports competition managed to bring together members of the British Empire, primarily in 1891 by John Astley Cooper published a letter in the London Times. The contents of his letter proposed a “Pan-Anglican Contest every four years to increase the goodwill and understanding of the British Empire.”
Following his letter published in the London Times, the John Astley Committee was formed. The sporting events were held in Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa to promote a mental impression of people in each country. Following John Astley’s idea, the Olympic Games movement was established and started by Pierre de Coubertin.
In 1911, for the first time, the event was held at The Crystal Palace in South London, principally to celebrate the coronation of King George V with an Inter-Empire Championship. Crystal Palace was filled with athletes from Canada, South Africa, Australia, and the United Kingdom. They participated in events such as boxing, wrestling, and swimming. In London, a silver trophy was presented as the Championship Trophy by Lord Lonsdale. The ceremonial cup weighed 340 ounces. Canada managed to grab the cup in 1911.
Generally, the Commonwealth Games come under the supervision of the CGF (Commonwealth Games Federation), which also controls the sports schedule to nominate the host cities. The IFS (International Sports Federation) and Commonwealth Games Association (CGA) become the organising committees for precise Commonwealth Games. In 1928, during the Summer Olympics in Amsterdam, Melville Marks Robinson served as the Canadian Manager for the track and field team.
When the ceremonies open, there are innumerable customs and symbols for The Commonwealth Games, such as the flag of the late Queen Elizabeth II’s Baton Relay. The sporting event includes 5,000 athletes, over 15 sports, and more than 250 events. Anyone who becomes first, in any event, gets a gold medal, a second gets a silver medal, and the third a bronze medal.
In the UK, nineteen cities (including Scotland and Wales) participate separately. In Australia, the Commonwealth Games were held in 1938, 1962, 1982, 2006, and 2018, which accounts for more than any other nation. The two cities which have hosted more than once are Auckland in 1950 and 1990 and Edinburgh in 1970 and 1986.
Canada, England, Scotland, Wales, New Zealand, and Australia won gold medals in all Commonwealth Games. The Australian team became the highest accomplishing team for medals thirteen times, England seven times, and Canada only once. In April 2018, the Commonwealth Games was held in Gold Coast, Australia. The next Commonwealth Games will be held in March 2026. The venue will be the Australian state of Victoria.
By Dr. Tilak S. Fernando
picture credit : Ceylon Today Newspaper