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19 March, 2012 - Published 16:34 GMT

By Saroj Pathirana
BBC Sinhala service

Olympic rights 'will not be transferred'

The sports minister in Sri Lanka says that exclusive broadcasting rights of 2012 Olympics obtained by state-owned Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation (SLRC) will not be sold to private channel as reported by media.

The Sunday Leader newspaper said the Carlton Sports Network (CSN), reportedly owned by President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s family, has sought the broadcasting rights of the 2012 London Olympics.

The newspaper said the SLRC had obtained the rights as a member of the Asian Broadcasting Union (ABU) which is under the International Broadcasting Union (IBU), the broadcast rights holder for the Olympics.

Sports Minister Mahindananda Aluthgamage said he was not aware of such attempt by the CSN to acquire broadcasting rights by the CSN from the SLRC.

“So far I was not informed of any such attempt to get Olympic broadcasting rights for the CSN,” he told BBC Sinhala service, Sandeshaya.

No athletes qualified

Chief Executive Officer of CSN Nishantha Ranathunga has confirmed to Sunday Leader that they have sought the broadcast rights for the 2012 Olympics.

"If the Rupavahini has received the exclusive rights, that will not be changed,” the minister stressed.

The cabinet of ministers have earlier decided that state media and “channels that exclusively cover sports” should be given priority in offering broadcasting rights of major sports events.

The CSN is the only channel exclusively dedicated for sports in Sri Lanka but Minister Aluthgamage says he is not aware of the channel’s owners.

“As far as I am aware, the officials of the CSN…, no I don’t know who owns it,” was the minister's response about reports that the CSN is owned by President Rajapaksa's sons.

For the first time in recent history in Sri Lanka, not a single athlete is qualified to represent the country in London Olympics.

Only national badminton champion Niluka Karunaratne is qualified for Olympics and it is expected that few others would join him in London as wild cards.

The minister admitted it is a “serious situation” as Sri Lanka failed to secure a single medal “for the first time in Sri Lanka’s history” at the recently concluded Asian Games.