Tragedy-hit Hambantota ready for World Cup
Hambantota, where 3,000 people died in the 2004 tsunami, welcomed the World Cup today, the latest morale-boosting step for the ambitious Sri Lankan coastal city.india Updated: Feb 20, 2011 10:02 IST
Hambantota, where 3,000 people died in the 2004 tsunami, welcomed the World Cup on Sunday, the latest morale-boosting step for the ambitious Sri Lankan coastal city.
The stadium where Sri Lanka were due to tackle Canada is named after president Mahinda Rajapakse, who hopes the facility will go a long way in changing the face of his hometown and help its dream of hosting the 2018 Commonwealth Games.
"Hambantota was hit by the tsunami in 2004. So, with the World Cup coming, the people have a chance to celebrate and World Cup matches are a historic moment for them," Sri Lanka Cricket secretary Nishantha Ranatunga told AFP.
Ranatunga, younger brother of 1996 World Cup winning team captain Arjuna, said the stadium will be crucial for the future.
"The Hambantota stadium is not only about World Cup matches, it will be one of the top facilities for the youth of Hambantota and the adjoining towns and I am sure it will produce a number of talented players in future."
The ground development project is part of a makeover of the province which involves a new international airport, seaport and Sri Lanka's first expressway from Hambantota to Colombo - a distance of around 220km - by the end of 2012.
"The Sri Lankan army worked around the clock to make the stadium ready," Shanaka Ratnayake, who has been overlooking the venue's development ever since the land was identified in June 2008, told AFP.
Building started in May 2009 but incessant rains slowed progress and there were fears that the venue might not be ready for the World Cup.
A Chinese construction company then got involved and, along with the army, sped up the work.
The hallmark of the new ground is a pearl-shaped grandstand roof.
Among the many admirers of the stadium is Sri Lankan captain Kumar Sangakkara.
"We whole-heartedly support the state-of-the-art stadium in Hambantota. As a nation we have done wonders. The Commonwealth Games in 2018 will be a yet another milestone and I support that bid from Sri Lanka," said Sangakkara.
Despite Sunday's match tipped to be a one-sided affair, it is a complete sell-out and will be packed to its 35,000 capacity.
With huge "Let the celebrations begin" and "Welcome to Hambantota" banners already in place, the town is abuzz with the World Cup, with hundreds of fans filling the small number of hotels in the town.
The stadium will also host Pakistan-Kenya match on Wednesday.