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Sri Lanka satisfied with South Asian Games

A top Sri Lankan sports official said he was "fully satisfied" with the just-concluded South Asian Games that passed off peacefully despite security fears.

india Updated: Aug 30, 2006 17:00 IST

A top Sri Lankan sports official said on Wednesday he was "fully satisfied" with the just-concluded South Asian Games that passed off peacefully despite security fears.

S Wirithamulla, secretary in Sri Lanka's sports ministry, said that Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajpakse was happy with the organisation of the games, held under the shadow of a bomb blast on the opening day on Aug 14 that killed seven people.

"We did out best, but there might have been a few mistakes here and there. Looking at the larger picture, we are fully satisfied with the games' conduct," Wirithamulla told IANS at the end of the 11-day eight-nation extravaganza.

"Even when we met the president after the games, he said he was very happy at the way the games were organised," said the 1978-batch official of the Sri Lankan Administrative Service.

Wirithamulla said the organisers had certain targets, which they largely achieved.

"One was that we wanted these to be friendly games. We did not want a dogfight at the games," he said, referring to the cutthroat competition usually associated with sports events these days.

"We wanted to have solidarity in the region through these games."

Wirithamulla admitted that security was a concern after the bomb blast in the heart of Colombo put a big question mark over the games.

"We were concerned but confident that nothing would happen during the games. LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam) had openly declared that they would do nothing with the games," he said.

"But we did not take it easy. We had very, very tight security at the games. There were four arms of the security: the special task force, air force, army and navy, besides the police force."

Twenty-two committees helped organise the 10th edition of the games in which over 2,000 athletes contested in 20 disciplines.

India topped the medal chart with 234 medals, including 118 gold, 69 silver and 47 bronze.

It was all done with a limited budget, Wirithamulla said.

"Our budget was one-third of Islamabad's budget - (Sri Lankan) Rs.900 million," he said, referring to the previous games held in the Pakistan capital in 2004.

"We tried to economise the budget in the face or problems."

He said it was unfortunate that the triangular cricket series was cancelled following the South African team's withdrawal due to security concerns raised by the blast.

"Sri Lanka is a cricket-loving nation. If the cricket series had been played we'd have loved it.

"If South Asian Games would have been affected (by the bomb blast) people would have felt very bad."

Wirithamulla admitted that Sri Lanka, which finished third behind Pakistan with 37 gold, 63 silver and 78 bronze medals for a tally of 178, did not live up to expectations.