Colombo: Sri Lanka was drawing inspiration from Malaysia`s successful Commonwealth Games in believing it can beat sole rival Australia in the 2018 bid race.
Hambantota was up against favorite Gold Coast, and Sri Lanka Sports Minister Mahindananda Aluthgamage said on Tuesday that he thought the port town could emulate Kuala Lumpur by heading off a glamorous opponent.
Kuala Lumpur won a vote with southern Australia city Adelaide to become the first Asian city to host the games in 1998.
"In 1991, when Malaysia was competing, the difference between those two countries was the same like with us today," Aluthgamage said. "There is no difference. Nobody thought that Australia would lose, but Malaysia won."
Ajith Nivad Cabral, the governor of Sri Lanka`s central bank and co-chairman of the Commonwealth bidding committee, said Sri Lanka showed many of the same economic and social indicators as Malaysia had when it won hosting rights.
"We have a good chance," Cabral said. "If Malaysia was able to do it at that time, we can do it, too."
He said among Commonwealth nations only a handful have hosted the games.
"There are 71 countries within the Commonwealth and many are happy to see new countries emerge to host this event. So that`s an advantage for Sri Lanka." Cabral said.
Australia and Canada have hosted the games four times each. England, Scotland and Wales have hosted five games combined, while New Zealand has had three games.
"I think that will be reflected in the minds of many countries when they go to vote," Cabral said. "So we believe that Commonwealth nations will also back Sri Lanka at the voting and we will surprise the world."
The winning bid will be announced in St. Kitts and Nevis on Nov. 11.
The contrast between the bidders was vast. Gold Coast was already developed with most of its sporting infrastructure in place. Nearby Brisbane hosted the 1982 Games.
Hambantota has hardly any infrastructure. The port town emerged on the sporting scene only this year when it hosted two World Cup cricket matches.
It lies on Sri Lanka`s southern coast an area that was severely damage in the 2004 tsunami and has no international airport and no international hotels.
Much of the landscape was still covered by thick forests and lush rice fields.
Sri Lanka hopes to spend upto USD 6 billion on games projects, a colossal sum for a country that was still emerging from a 26-year civil war. Cabral said the country also hopes to reap "tremendous benefits" in terms of infrastructure, investor confidence and employment opportunities.
Aluthgamage said Hambantota`s standing had greatly improved since making its bid official.
"We are now tie-tie," he said.