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Iconic cricket stadium threatened by Sri Lankan government plans

Galle International Cricket Stadium, one of the sport’s most picturesque venues, is facing an uncertain future after the Sri Lankan government proposed the demolition of the facility with a view to building a new stadium elsewhere.

The Galle stadium was officially declared a cricket venue in 1927 and staged its first Test match in 1998. Famed for its views of the Indian Ocean, the stadium has a unique place in world cricket due to its setting next to a 17th century Dutch fort which holds Unesco World Heritage status.

The stadium suffered extensive damage following the 2004 tsunami and government ministers claim a 500-seat pavilion stand which was built in the wake of the disaster is threatening the fort’s World Heritage status. Government ministers are instead targeting land in Pinnaduwa for a new stadium.

However, local newspaper the Sunday Times said Unesco has not made a request to move the stadium or demolish the pavilion, instead recommending the removal of certain obstructions impacting upon “the physical and visual integrity of the 17th Century Galle Fort”.

Unesco Commission Sri Lanka secretary general Lal Ratnaweera told the Times: “There’s no reason to shift the venue. But there are few illegal constructions which obstructs the visible integrity of the Fort and these need to be removed.”

Ratnaweera said Unesco has given a deadline of December 2019 to make the necessary changes. “It’s a long and gradual process,” he added. “There’s no restriction to play cricket in the ground and, in fact, we all agreed that matches should be played at the venue as scheduled.”

Galle’s next major game is the Test match between Sri Lanka and England on November 6-10.

Image: Ji-Elle