Sri Lankan Olympic Torch Bearer Dilshan Senanayake’s Day

Jul - 9 - 2012
M.V. Muhshin

What a thrill it will be for former Trinitian and Rugby Lion Dilshan Senanayake as he partakes in the Olympic Torch bearing Relay as a Torch bearer, running a 300 metre stretch in the Huntingdon precincts near Cambridge, London. His turn is today. He is one of three Sri Lankans to have been picked to carry the torch. They were selected from among over 150,000 nominees over a 12-month period with proven track records and accomplishments.

Dilshan, attached to John Lewis Finance was nominated for his role as a Coaching Champion and Mentor for John Lewis’s Partners in sport program (in association with Sports Coach UK). Through this program over 500 individuals have gone onto achieve coaching qualifications in a sport of their choice and are presently engaged in volunteer coaching in their communities.

Further, in association with national sports store ‘Up and Running’ Dilshan is working on an initiative to source old surplus running clothing to be shipped and distributed to junior athletes in rural schools in Sri Lanka.

Dilshan is presently attached to the London Olympic and Paralympics Organizing Committee (on a 6 month secondment from John Lewis). As member of the Village Management’s Support Operations team at the main games village in Stratford, his team is responsible for all operational phases that involve general village sites and facility management and provision of logistical support for all village stakeholders, primarily the athletes.

Emotional connection

For Dilshan however, the London Olympics has a deeper and emotional connection. It was in the 1948 London Games that Sri Lanka won its first ever Olympic medal when Duncan White was judged the second fastest hurdler (400 metres) in the world.

It was Duncan who decorated Dilshan with the Rugby Lion when Duncan, an Old Trinitian himself, visited the school in 1987-the year in which the Trinity Rugby XV was the unbeaten school champions.

Dilshan Senanayake being awarded the Trinity Rugby Lion by Duncan White

Dilshan later briefly played for Kandy Sports Club and Havelocks before leaving for the US. In the US he played and coached University rugby before leaving a rugby legacy of sports by being a founder member of the TCK/STC Washington DC Rugby 7s. Rugby remains Dilshan’s passion to this day and since has played local club rugby in UK while also serving as a Level 1 rugby coach and a level 2 Referee.

Carrying the Olympic Flame is steeped in tradition. This year the Torch was first lit in the Games spiritual home of ancient Olympia and from there began its long journey — from Greece to London. It is the Flame that gets passed on not the torch itself. Ancient rituals say the Olympic Flame can only be lit by the sun’s own rays – and so in a grand ceremony this year an actress played the part of the high priestess – in front of the ruins of the Temple of Hera in Greece, the birth place of the Ancient Game. Its here that Ino Menegaki a glamorous and strikingly beautiful actress played the role of High Priestess and lit the Flame by the rays of the sun in a parabolic mirror. It was then placed in an urn before the high priestess and priestesses carried the Flame to the stadium.

Spyros Giannioti – first Torch bearer

The first torch bearer for this Olympics was Spyros Giannioti, Greece’s England-born world champion 10 k swimming champion. The Flame was then carried in a relay around the Greek mainland and Islands; and from Ancient Olympia to the Panathenaic Stadium in Athens, where the first modern Olympics were held in 1896. And this is where the official handover to London took place on May 17.

Princess Anne and David Beckham who attended the ceremony returned to London in a specially chartered plane called the Firefly – they then carried the Torch on to UK soil – they sat three rows apart while the Torch was secured and had its own seat.

Olympic gold medallist Ben Ainslie was the first Torch bearer to carry the Olympic Flame in the UK. Ben, who won gold medals in Sailing at the Beijing 2008, Athens 2004 and Sydney 2000 Games started the 70-day Relay on 19 May.

Fascinating incidents

There have been some fascinating incidents during the relay’s 8,000 mile trek in the UK.

Dilshan Senanayake Carrying the Olympic Torch

One Olympic Torch bearer stopped to ‘pop the question’ – and proposed to his girlfriend – on bended knee-in the middle of his relay as he carried the Torch through the streets of Northern London. He handed the Torch to a nearby security official while he proposed. She accepted and the Olympic ring and Torch was overshadowed by a diamond ring. They hugged and kissed – and then he took the Torch back and continued his run. The banner headline read : With this Olympic ring, I thee wed?! Swifter, higher, stronger, braver-read another headline as Britian’s most wounded soldier carried the Olympic Torch — he walked with his prosthetic legs. Ben Parkinson – 27 years old – is Britian’s most wounded soldier to survive his injuries-lost both his limbs, broke his back, hips and ribs and suffered brain damage in Afganistan in 2006. He defied the odds with every step of his epic 300 meters journey – walking behind him were 50 members of his regiment. Displaying characteristic humility of a soldier he said in an interview : it was nothing-just another walk!

Olympic Torch fetches 153,000

And money plays its part as well. As explained earlier it’s the Flame that gets passed on and not the Torch… but one Olympic Torch was sold one day for 153,100 UK Pound Sterling (Rs. 30 million) just one day after the first leg of the relay-it was listed by Sarah Milner Simonds of Burnham-on-Sea as ‘used in the torch relay’. She plans using the money for community gardening project – The People’s Plot. There is a question, however, at this time of writing as to whether she had received the money. However another Torch went for 10,600 pounds (Rs. 2.1 million) and yet another was listed at a starting bid of 100,000 pounds (Rs.20 million).

A Torch costs 494 pounds ( Rs. 98,000) to make and is sold to the Torch bearers at 215 pounds (Rs. 43,000). It does not take a genius to calculate the profits made!!



Article Written by Mohamed Muhshin

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