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Cricket Where ‘Everybody is Included’
An Investment for a Better Tomorrow

Indian cricketers, from left, Virender Sehwag, Harbhajan Singh, Yuvraj Singh play a warm-up game during a practice session in Dambulla, Sri Lanka, Sunday, Aug. 17, 2008.

Cricket, like football and rugger, is very much a spectator sport. In 30 months time, cricket’s most prestigious mega-event, ‘the World Cup’, will come here. We are given nine matches including a Semi-final match, along with a big sum of money by the ICC for upgrading facilities at match venues.

Although a LIFETIME opportunity, due to lackadaisical attitudes of decision makers, many thousands of us are again to be denied of the opportunity to come and witness our own cricketing heroes along with other international stars in action ON OUR OWN HOME SOIL due to critical shortcomings in facilities at match venues!

Sri Lanka will soon have 20% senior citizens, many of whom have IMPAIRED MOBILITY. Increasing numbers of accidents and the ongoing war against terrorism for over 25 years have left an unaccounted number of permanent users of wheelchair, cruchers, etc. in our midst, many of whom are quite young and cricket loving.

Those holding top positions in sports here should give serious thought to these ever increasing vital segments of our population.

REAL Corporate Social Responsibility

Business giants ‘spend’ big money to bring live television coverage of these sporting events. Administrators cry that it has prevented the crowds coming to witness even a test match or an ODI and thereby drastically reduces the profits each club very much anticipates for their survival as well as the betterment of sports and players.

But in rugger, football and cricket in particular, we have a commodity with unlimited potential for entertainment and togetherness in an excellent social environment. A proper investment strategy CAN still reverse this sad trend and thereby optimise the profits.

Even the hospitality boxes and pavilions belonging to reputed business giants who spend big money to promote live telecasts and talk highly about their corporate social responsibility, continue to DENY wheelchair users, facilities enjoyed by others.

Even then, there is not even a single properly designed TOILET facility - the most essential need during several hours’ stay - or other essential facilities that are accessible for wheelchair users, elderly and even pregnant mothers at reputed cricket venues such as the Sinhalese sports Club (SSC) Ground that houses the SLC headquarters, R. Premadasa Stadium, the picturesque P. Sara Stadium, newly re-done Galle International Stadium, Asgiriya and Dambulla Stadia, along with Police Park, CCC, Colts, NCC and BRC etc. as well as reputed football and rugger grounds.

Many business organisations are readier to offer sympathy and a helping hand than empathy for ENABLING and EMPOWERING.

The creation of an image and building a reputation as a ‘truly’ People’s caring business organisation is imperative today to succeed. As such IF these business organisations could also INVEST 10% of that big ADDITIONAL money they happily spend ‘for few seconds of their TV commercials’ on match days, those rupees would make Sports Stadia ‘Enabling’ for the widest possible range of potential spectators, and thereby touching hearts and benefiting thousands of cricket, rugger and football loving spectators. It would also do tremendous good to the game, the clubs and also the country! That would be REAL Corporate Social Responsibility!!

Never overlook potential

customers

The majority of our 20% senior citizens will experience the on-set of less mobility, incontinence and impaired balance. Yet, they are the sector that has the time and the desire to come to at least a couple of day’s play in a five day test match, often in groups.

Numerous debilitating medical conditions (apparent or otherwise) and serious injuries as said before, affect alarmingly increasing numbers, especially the youth - who form the nucleus of the number of spectators at fast versions of the game.

‘Ability to walk steadily or climb even two steps, is a passing asset that can be snatched away from any one of us, temporarily or permanently.

"ABILITY thus is DIVERSE". This inevitable fact SHOULD be taken into account when we design and construct public buildings and facilities, especially at our internationally reputed Sports Venues. It will minimise unwonted ‘EXCLUSION’ of increasing numbers of potential cricket loving spectators.

Public amenities at most of the international sports venues elsewhere, are now routinely upgraded to accommodate the basic essential human needs of a widest possible range of people.

For Sri Lanka too, DESIGNING for inclusion of all people, is an ESSENTIAL investment and a highly responsible task involving time, effort and money. As such, authorities undertaking construction should seek expert guidance as to how best to do this right, first time!

An essential investment for All

It is encouraging to know that Sri Lanka Tourism has an ambitious plan to promote tourism here through ‘King Cricket’.

Independent surveys done on tourism confirm that it is the senior citizens from the West and UAE who have the time, big purchasing power, spending capacity, and the inclination to travel out of season and not be perturbed by unwarranted fears. But they find difficulty here in identifying essential facilities at our hotels and guest houses that cater for their ‘reduced ability’ needs.

It should soon be an ‘implemented’ POLICY here that no Sports Stadia or Hotel should be allowed to waste our limited assets with ‘Man building more physical barriers to man’. At least some existing key facilities, such as toilets, should be empathetically modified to ‘enabling’ all customers.

It should be seen as an INVESTMET and an ACT OF JUSTICE, not an act of Charity. But "Justice delayed is justice denied" and, in this case, loss of more lucrative business opportunities, profits and the country’s good name too!

[Dr. Ajith C. S. Perera is a former Test Match panel senior cricket umpire and a cricket writer. Several years ago a wayside tree crashed on his moving car in Colombo on the eve of his First Test Match, to leave him instantaneously a paraplegic for lifetime! Although now a wheelchair user, he remains very much ‘NOT OUT’ as a disability activist, promoting ‘Environments that are Accessible and Friendly to All’.]

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