Colombo: Sri Lankan officials think their bid to host the 2018 Commonwealth Games may have been doomed because of the deeply flawed games held last year in neighboring India.
Sri Lanka`s southern venue of Hambantota was defeated by the Gold Coast in Friday`s polling in St Kitts, with members of the Commonwealth Games Federation voting 43-27 in favor of the Australian bid.
Sri Lanka`s Central Bank Governor and bid chairman Ajith Nivard Cabraal said late comments from Canada critical of the organisation of the New Delhi Games "created a certain fear among some of the voting delegates who associated India closely with Sri Lanka."
"And as a result I think that may have hurt our chances to a some extent, although we know that one of the most successful games was conducted in India," Cabraal told reporters.
Cabraal also said "this lobby appeared to be designed to give some kind of a feeling that Asian countries are unable to have very good games. That also may have gone against us to some extent."
In August, auditors slammed India`s preparations and conduct of the 2010 Commonwealth Games, saying the organisation was flawed, riddled with favoritism and vastly more expensive than planned in a final report that could result in criminal prosecutions.
Some countries considered withdrawing from the New Delhi Games following long construction delays, the collapse of a pedestrian bridge and the discovery of filthy conditions in the athletes` village just days before the games were to begin.
India had hoped the games would improve its image as a rising superpower. Instead it was deeply embarrassed by construction delays, cost overruns and corruption allegations.
The Commonwealth Games Federation`s Evaluation Commission said it was satisfied that Hambantota could guarantee a "safe and peaceful" games, but warned that significant investment was needed in telecommunications infrastructure, transport and hospitals and said staging the games in the developing area presented a "medium-to-high risk" compared with the "low risk" of the Gold Coast.
Gold Coast`s bid was based largely on the use of existing facilities while Hambantota, a city largely devastated by the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami, promised to deliver brand new stadiums, an international airport and other infrastructure by 2016.
Sports Minister Mahindananda Aluthgamage criticised the bidding process and said "there is an injustice and we saw that small countries do not get a chance to hold this game."
Despite Sri Lanka losing the bid, the process helped to improve Sri Lanka`s image and boosted the tourism industry. It also provided an opportunity to draw attention to Hambantatoa, which is being developed as the country`s second economic city, he said.