No more involvement with NOC – Hemasiri Fernando


Hemasiri Fernando left his post as National Olympic Committee President, a position he has been holding for a staggering twenty years.

by Revata S. Silva

‘Versatility’ is not the word! Secretary to PM (Sirimavo Bandaranaike) to chairing SL Telecom and the National Airport & Aviation, from the northeast war front, where he was a military officer, to the head of postal dept, and from being a leading marksman in Asia to his lifelong passion for railway, Hemasiri Fernando is more than a ‘multifaceted personality’. Yet his forte is holding Presidency of the National Olympic Committee (NOC); that too for two long decades, when he earned both accolades and brickbats. Fernando, present Chairman of People’s Bank, bid adieu to NOC as yesterday’s much anticipated elections sought to replace him either with Suresh Subramaniam or Rohan Fernando, who ran for the NOC hot seat from two different fronts.

= How do you feel when you look back?

For the past 20 years as head of NOC, I’m very happy because I have recorded a number of achievements for the Olympic movement in Sri Lanka. I first took over as NOC Vice President in 1995. I was Chef-de-Mission of the Madras South Asian Games which featured a contingent of over 500 athletes. When I took over in 1997 as NOC President, there was only Rs.15,000 in its accountant. We started at a small 10’x15’ room at Reid Avenue which went under water on rainy days. Then we moved to Sugathadasa Stadium with the courtesy of R. M. K. Ratnayake, then Sports Secretary, and the Minister of Sport, S. B. Dissanayake. From there, we managed to organise one of the most successful sports events in Sri Lanka; the 2006 South Asian Games. Then in the following year, we managed to hold one of the most successful Commonwealth Games General Assemblies in the history. Two years later, the three-story state-of-the-art NOC building complex came up in Torrington. I also made certain that it earns nearly one million rupees every month through its restaurant, gymnasium and the auditorium.

= It was an unprecedented long stint in the history of our sport administration?

I personally feel happy to become the first Asian to simultaneously hold the post of Vice President of both the Commonwealth Games Federation and the Olympic Council of Asia. Nobody in this country will ever reach those heights. According to the new two-term rule in the NOC Constitution, nobody can get into even the Executive Boards of those bodies.

=You said you were a disappointed person -

For the last six years up to the present day, I had direct and indirect confrontations with the Sport Ministers. There was undue, unreasonable political interference into National Federations. Because of that, I don’t want to stay in this post for even one day. I was thoroughly disappointed and was insisting that the NOC elections should be held soon.

= You sought to support one party in the run for the elections?

In the present elections, I’m supporting the group the NOC Sec. General Maxwell de Silva represented. It was simply because he is a dedicated person, a workaholic. That’s a fact known to the other Olympic Committees too in our region.

= Will you involve further into NOC activities?

I will be part of the administration constitutionally as its immediate Past President. But I think it’s all over for me as far as sports is concerned. I have many, many other things to do. I need to use my expertise in the other fields and serve the country.

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