Former SL Rugby Captain Namal tackled by the top players of the IOC at the Tokyo Olympics.

It,s might be ‘the Woodpecker Stuck to the banana tree’, Is it?

Team USA won more gold medals — and more medals overall — than any other country in the Games. A total of 626 athletes competed for the USA at the Tokyo 2020 games, clinching 39 gold, 41 silver, and 33 bronze medals for a grand total of 113 medals in 28 different sports. Overall, 257 members of Team USA won a medal, including 164 women and 93 men.

China and Japan, the host country, were closest to matching the American gold-medal haul, winning 38 and 27 medals, respectively. In the total medal count, China finished in second with 88 medals, followed by the Russian Olympic Committee with 71 medals. Team USA has now won the most medals at the Summer Olympics for seven consecutive games, dating back to 1996.

While the United States remains the country with the highest number of infected people in the world due to the global corona epidemic, it is exemplary how they can maintain immunity in their sport. India, second only to the United States in terms of the Covid disaster, and its neighbors taught us many lessons by winning the first athletics gold medal in their 120 – year Olympic history.

But for anyone other than the athletes and coaches who left our country for the Olympics this year, these exemplary stories and lessons may seem ridiculous. The reason is that the Tokyo Olympics is just another pilgrimage for the members of the National Olympic Committee of Sri Lanka (NOC) and their supporters. That is because they are not even interested in designing a sports uniform to represent their country, regardless of the outcome.

When Neeraj Chopra won the first gold medal in athletics for India in the history of the Olympic Games by throwing the javelin at 87.58 meters in this time, Sri Lanka, who ahead of India at the Olympics level two decades ago, came home empty-handed. Sri Lanka at the 2000 Sydney Olympics 18 athletes participated, out of 4 sports and won a silver medal and placed 64th. But then India for 13 games 65 Athletes participated and won only one bronze medal and placed 71st. In addition to the silver medal which was won by Susanthika Jayasinghe   21 years ago in the 200m event, Sri Lanka qualified for the second round in six events out of nine athletics participated events, including the 400m and 4x400m. Although India won a bronze medal in weightlifting alone at that time, this time they won seven medals (1 gold, 2 silver, 4 bronze) and were ranked 48th out of 205 countries.

Since 1948 Sri Lanka (population 21.5 million), which has competed in the Olympics 18 times, has dropped to zero today. However, countries with a less population than Sri Lanka, which has represented only seven Olympic Games since 1996, have won at least one medal this time. Armenia (population 3 million) won 4 medals (silver 2, bronze 2), Kyrgyzstan (population 6.6 million) 3 medals (silver 2, bronze 1), Northern Macedonia (population 2.1 million) 1 medal (silver 1), Turkmenistan (Population 6.1 million) 1 medal (Silver 1) and State of Azerbaijan (population 10.2 million) 7 medals (Silver 3, 4 Bronze) Among the 94 countries that won medals at the Tokyo Olympics.

Burkina Faso, which has a population similar to that of Sri Lanka, which started its Olympic journey in 1972, also won one bronze medal this year. Even San Marino, a small country with a population of only 34,000, has competed in the Olympics since 1960 and won one silver and two bronze medals this year.

A record 94 nations won medals at the Tokyo 2020 games, including Turkmenistan, San Marino, and Burkina Faso — all of which claimed their first Olympic medals ever. Japan, Italy, Netherlands, Brazil, New Zealand, Chinese Taipei, and Turkey also set new records for most medals secured at a single Olympic Games.

At a time when even such small countries are emerging, Sri Lanka is facing such a severe setback due to the collapse of Sri Lankan athletics that has been going on for almost two decades. The best and closest example of this is the Tokyo Olympics. That is, India had to wait 120 years to win its first Olympic gold medal in athletics, having participated in the inaugural Olympics 48 years before Sri Lanka, but Sri Lanka won its first athletic medal at the inaugural participation in 1948 when Duncan White won the men’s 400m hurdle. Sri Lanka, which was ranked 15th out of 45 Asian countries due to its athletic prowess in the late 90s, has now slipped to 43rd. At the last three Asian Games (2010, 2014, and 2018), Sri Lankan athletes returned home empty-handed.

For a long time, the rulers who have been elected to the National Olympic Committee (NOC) after elections every four years have been working not for the betterment of the country’s sport, but for the betterment of themselves and the people who voted for them.

One example was in  2016 (when Hemasiri-Maxwell combination in the NOC top seats) a journalist was sent (the same person was brought to Tokyo as a journalist this time as well) from the state-owned Lake House to the Rio Olympics by preparing a fake accreditation card as a swimming coach. A former President of the Sri Lanka Wrestling Federation, who was found guilty of fraudulent transactions, was sent to Japan in advance to arrange an accreditation card as a Physiotherapy and join the Sri Lankan team at this year’s Olympics in Tokyo courtesy of Sri Lanka National Olympic Committee (current Subramaniyam-Maxwell combination in the NOC top seats).

A shooting athlete who lost her coach,  went to the Olympics this time with a manager. The reason is that the help given to a friend is bigger than the request of the athlete. All this inferior work is being done in anticipation of the next Olympic election in a few months. There is plenty more information about the anomaly committed by these Olympic leaders over the past decade. At a time when their attitudes towards sports administrators are at such a bad level, decisions are being made about the athletes who will be taken to the international arena not by their talent but by their face.

Six of the nine Sri Lankan athletes who represented the country at the Olympics this year were eligible for the concession base, and the athletes were selected for those concessions in view of the advantage that the Olympic leaders would have in the next election. The Badminton player Niluka Karunaratne, who is not making any progress at the Olympic level, spent a lot of money to go to the Olympics for the third time in a row. If that money had been spent on athletics, they would have won at least a bronze medal for Sri Lanka during the last 2-3 Olympic games.

But it is not the intention of the Olympic leaders to work with the Athletics Association of Sri Lanka to revive events such as the 4x400m relay event, which brought us medals in history. They want to help someone who is helping them to survive. Therefore, even though his younger brother was living in England, Niluka was given the opportunity to be his coach and go to the Olympics with the intention of getting two votes of the “Olympic Athletes Association” of which he is the President in the next election as well. The story of the judo player who went to Tokyo is even more bitter.

The athlete who is selected for the Olympics by any method must be reached at least his or her personal best regardless of victory. But our people remained only a few shameful stories to the country. So NOC. In other words, the main task of the Sri Lanka Olympic Tourism Committee is not to help the best in Sri Lankan sports, but to import some famous characters from somewhere and take them to international competitions as same as this time.

However, the Ministry of Sports should be questioned when the National Olympic Committee authorities are involved in such misconduct on a large scale nationally and internationally. But they have become accustomed to gossiping to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) that the Minister of Sports is interfering in our affairs. In Sri Lanka, the Olympic authorities have always pretended to be an independent institution by falsely disguising themselves as every sports minister who comes to power.

So far, there has been a process of intimidating sports ministers who are going to look into the affairs of officials by posing as accused in front of the IOC. It is learned that another such meeting was held in Tokyo recently. It is said that when Minister Namal Rajapaksa (former Sri Lanka Rugby Captain) went to Japan for the Olympics this year, the NOC. had planned to stage it. However, it is learned that Minister Namal has given a warm response to the bosses of IOC by avoiding the usual tackles during the special meeting.

Accordingly, it is believed that if the NOC officials made any attempt to continue the usual practices, it too could end after the Tokyo IOC-Namal special meeting.  It,s might be ‘the Woodpecker Stuck to the banana tree’ (kottoruwa Kehel gahata ketuwa wage), Is it?

However, NOC is not an independent body. The Minister of Sports should remind the bosses of NOC who always say so, that the provisions of the Sports Act No. 25 of 1973 passed in this country. According to the Sports Act, the Minister of Sports has the power to establish NOCs in the country.

If they have such independence why do they request financial assistance from the Ministry of Sports during an international tour and the approval of the Minister of Sports for the relevant athletes and tours?

Therefore, according to the Sports law of the country, the Minister of Sports has the power to maintain and develop sports in the country. However, in order to change this system, the Minister of Sports and the National Sports Council, who advises the Minister, must act with a proper understanding of the rulers who are thus appointed.

A country with a sports culture is also economically rich. Even a newspaper published in every country has traditionally devoted 1 to 3 pages to Sports because those who were there at that time understood the value of sports as a tool.

But everywhere in our country, the rulers are elected through a system of elections in which the truth is defeated. The National Olympic Committee is just one cross-section in the country’s existing sports administration.

Sirinama Rajapaksa,