Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa on Saturday made a strong pitch for port city Hambantota to host the 2018 Commonwealth Games, for which Australia's Gold Coast is also in the fray.
Rajapaksa made a brief speech at the Sports Breakfast organised here on the sidelines of the ongoing Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) and said that winning the bid to host the Games would be a "life changing event" in his country's history.
The breakfast, hosted by Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard, was attended by members of the 71 Commonwealth Games associations who have a vote in deciding the bid.
Gold Coast and Hambantota have bid to host the 2018 Games and a vote at an assembly in St Kitts and Nevis in the Caribbean on November 11 would decide the venue.
Rajapaksa said that the island nation was keen to emulate Malaysia, which hosted the Games in 1998 and witnessed large scale economic development in the years that followed.
He also added that hosting of the Games would allow reconciliation among his people, after years of civil war, and the reconstruction of infrastructure. He pledged to finish building all accommodations and sporting facilities by 2015, saying that the bid had his government's "highest backing".
Rajapaksa mentioned that Australia had hosted the Games on earlier occasions as well.
Sri Lanka will be hosting the next CHOGM in Colombo in 2013.
Meanwhile, Aussie PM Gillard made a brief mention of the Gold Coast, having put in a bid, saying Australia would host an "outstanding games".