It is twenty-five years since the inaugural of Colonel Henry Steele Olcott Memorial Sports Foundation (CHSOMSF) in Sri Lanka and the Executive Committee of the foundation is making arrangements to celebrate this memorable milestone mainly through the electronic media & on virtual platform during this pandemic period.
Some of the events proposed are:
• A special “Bana” preaching program via Zoom for old boys & girls living in worldwide and for affiliated organizations on18th August 2021
• Wide range of publicity through mass media
• Inter school debate via Zoom and an essay competition
• E-magazine as a souvenir to commemorate the 25th anniversary.
• Olcott Oration at Nalanda College Auditorium on 17th September 2021
• Felicitate the Pioneers & Charter members who established this esteemed organization at a grand ceremony to be held in Colombo during the current year.
• A Soft ball cricket tournament for “Silver Jubilee Trophy” and family get together
It all started with casual conversations amongst three members of the Service Committee of the Board of Control for Cricket in Sri Lanka viz; Messrs. Jayantha Senaviratne (Nalanda), T.K.Palitha and Donald Perera from Dharmapala in mid-1995. The main objectives were to protect social values, ethics and traditions of school cricket amongst the Buddhist Schools, since a four decades of administration as Government Schools after the handing over of the former B.T.S Schools to the Government, under the schools take over act, and the introduction of inter school cricket competitions had witnessed a gradual deterioration of attitudes and interests in the pride of the schools established by Colonel H.S. Olcott, loyalty to the alma mater, harmony and brotherhood and the growth of fraternal attitudes amongst the Buddhist Schools, as values no longer required under the new educational set up of “ there are no Buddhist Schools, all are national Government Schools “.
The mission of the Pioneers was to arrest this trend, and drive into the mind of new thinkers the tremendous contributions that had been made, and are yet being made, to the indigenous national revival and growth in this country by the Buddhist Schools established by Col.H.S.Olcott and his movement for the establishment of Buddhist schools, and to emphasize that the Buddhist schools have yet to play an important role in the present society.
To map out their strategy they met at the Bloomfield Cricket and athletic club in early 1996. At this meeting a charter committee was appointed with Mr Bandula Warnapura (Nalanda), the first Test Captain as the President, Mr. Palitha Gunasekera(Ananda) as the Secretary and Mr.Donald Perera(Darmapala) as the Treasurer. Rest of the members of the charter committee were Messrs Jayantha Senaviratne (Nalanda) , Kumar Weerasuriya (Ananda), D.M.Dharmatilake (Darmaraja), Upul Sumathipala (Mahinda), Asoka Pathirana (Maliyadeva) and Daya Ramanayake (Rahula).
The charter committee concluded that the best way to reach the aims and aspirations was to institute an organization for the past cricketers of the leading cricket playing Buddhist Schools to get together. A fifteen a side annual cricket tournament of the past cricketers over 40 years of age of the associated schools was thought of, with a grand get together and dinner. As those involved were Buddhist Schools and the emphasis was on cricket it was decided to name the organization the Col.Henry Steele Olcott Memorial Sports Foundation. Perpetuation of the memory of the American Theosophist who revived Buddhist Education was upper most in the minds of the charter members. The annual cricket tournament was to be organized by an old boys association interested in cricket, in each school, on a rotation basis.
All credit goes to the Old Nalandians Sports Club, which volunteered to organize the first tournament on 3rd and 4th September 1999 at Campbell Park. All the spade work including the art work for the Trophies was done by the Old Nalandian’s Sports Club, leaving the main guide lines on running the tournament to the rest of the organizations to follow. The tournament regularly being conducted to this date, except during the current pandemic situation is a great achievement of the organizational members and the Olcott Foundation.
The Col.H.O.S.F. has grown in strength with the firm foundation laid by the team led by Bandula Warnapura- Nalanda ,( Now a Patron) who served as President from1999 to 2008 and subsequently guided ably by D.M.Dharmatilake- Darmaraja (2008-12), Palitha Gunasekera-Ananda (2013 -15) Jayantha Senaviratna- Nalanda (2016-17), Upul Sumathipala- Mahinda (2018-19 ) and Gamini Swarnapala- Maliyadeva from 2020 to date.
M/S: Palitha Gunasekera- Ananda, Daya Ramanayake- Darmapala and Gavesh Ginige- Darmashoka performed excellently as Secretaries from the inception and S.B.Herath of Darmaraja appointed as the Secretary from 2018 to date.
As treasurers M/S: Donald Perera- Darmapala, Lal Ranasinghe- Darmashoka, Salinda Rodrigo- Nalanda, Gamini Swarnapala- Maliyadeva & Thilakasiri Suraweera performed since the inception.
The Annual Olcott Memorial Cricket tournament that moves in rotation amongst the principal cities where the Olcott schools situated ie: Colombo, Kandy, Galle, Matara, Kurunegala , Ambalangoda and Pannipitiya , lasting three days, is the only cricket event in the country where the present students, old boys, parents and well-wishers of the leading Buddhist schools assemble, admire, and enjoy the skills of the performers of different generations in an atmosphere full of music, fun, and frolic. Also they felicitate the legends of sports during their era and encourage the younger generation to be a star in their sports activity.
The Foundation annually fields a team at the Six-a-side cricket tournament of the Lanka Cavaliers and also has an annual cricket fixture with the Lanka Cavaliers.
SCHOOL CRICKET DEVELOPMENT
By introducing a six a side tournament for the present school boys, in 2002, Mahinda college Cricket Foundation made an immense contribution to enhance the prestige of the C.H.S.O.M.S.F. School Boys tournament attracts both parents and old boys, and the cricket loving public gets an opportunity to witness the cream of school boys of leading schools in action. The social of the cricket teams of the schools on the day prior to the Tournament, provides a grand opportunity for the young to exchange their views and strengthen the bonds of
friendship amongst the associated schools, in addition to awareness about the history and development of the sister schools.
The Foundation also commenced the distribution of cricket balls to the associated schools to be used during the season and the distribution took place at the conclusion of the tournament.
Another sports event of much significance is the inter school relay carnival for the participation of the athletes of the Olcott Schools. Old Boys Association of Rahula College, Matara organized the first relay carnival in 2016 at the Matara Esplanade with great distinction. This was followed by Dharmaraja in 2017 at the Bogambara Stadium in Kandy. The third festival was organized by Maliyadeva , Kurunegala and held at the Welagedara Stadium in 2018.
BADMINTON AND TABLE TENNIS
A Badminton tournament was initiated by the O.B.A of Rahula College and a Table Tennis tournament by the Ananda Old Boys. While the desire is there for organizing tournaments for more sports activities, it is necessary to consider the financial constraints of the associated school organizations, if the tournaments are to be organized in rotation by all the schools.
QUIZ COMPETITION & LEADERSHIP PROGRAMMS
Our charter member Mr: Kumar Weerasuriya has been organizing a Quiz competition which is open for about twenty schools, both girls and boys, for the five years from 2014 up to the year 2018. In 2018, Jaffna Hindu College and Zahira College were invited to participate as a gesture of national reconciliation. Mr. Kumar Weerasuriya on his own, managed sponsorship, publicity, the award of trophies and the presentation of handsome cash gifts. It is a full day’s program with meals supplied free. We are grateful to Mr.Dhammika Kalapuge the main sponsor of the event. The Quiz competition is a deviation from sports activities to an academic area. It has become very popular amongst the schools and has enriched the prestige of the C.H.S.O.M.S.F
In addition, in January 2018 CHSOMSF organized a Leadership programme for five A level students from each of the 8 Olcott schools. It was a two day residential programme conducted by a professional leadership trainer Ms.Denuka Perera. This programme to be commenced soon after the situation of the country becomes normal.
What gives great satisfaction is that the Old Boys of Olcott Schools in the United Arab Emirates, themselves, organizing an Olcott Memorial Cricket Tournament annually, since 2007.It is a fun filled cricket festival which is an annual event in the calendar of Sri Lankan activities in the UAE. It is a cricket festival open to Sri Lankans of both sexes and of all age groups in UAE and around.
The Souvenir that is published with every tournament is a good source of information about the history of Schools in the Foundation, Col H.S.Olcott, the revival of Buddhist education, the Buddhist Theosophical Society etc. The schools can make use of this souvenir to give publicity to their achievements in the field of cricket.
The tournament also provides a good opportunity for the organizing School to market the tournament and attract sponsors who will contribute for the development of cricket in each school.
The Foundation has achieved the intended objectives of greater affiliation and the growth of brotherly feelings amongst the Olcott Schools to the extent that even the competitive inter school matches are looked forward to as friendly games, not concerned about the outcome. It is a healthy sign that at least the Olcott Schools play their inter school matches with each other with the spirit of cricket uppermost in their minds. Old Boys’ Associations are taking more interest in providing comfortable accommodation, and improving the quality of food that is served to the visiting teams. There is a great urge to raise the standard of cricket of the schools that are at a lower level in the S.L.S.C.A tournament table.
Olcott memorial commemorations are now an event in the calendar of the Olcott Schools, and students are well acquainted with the contributions Olcott made for the revival of Buddhism and for the education of Buddhist children. The unity of the Buddhist schools has been strengthened and more interaction facilitated.
The Foundation will be much happier, if all the Principals of schools are present together, at least on one of the days of the Tournament. Patronage and keen interest of the Principals, who are the Patrons of the Olcott Foundation, are eagerly looked forward to. Old Boys play a vital role in the development of cricket of their own schools, and a keen interest on the part of the Principals and a cordial and healthy relationship between the Principals and the respective Old boys’ Associations are essential for the improvement of school cricket. It is also necessary for the representatives of the Old Boys’ Associations of the associated schools in the Olcott Foundation Committee to have cordial relationships with the Principal, P.O.G, and the M.I.C of First X1 cricket of the respective schools, for the smooth functioning of the activities of the Olcott Foundation.
REGISTERED WITH NGO SECRATATIET
On 5th September,2019 the C.H.S.O.M.S.F. was registered as a non-Governmental Organization under the Ministry of National Integration. The number assigned is L 171804. Mr T. Suraweera of Rahula O.B.A. has to be complimented for his efforts in getting the Foundation registered.
Compiled from an article of D.M.Dharmatilake by Gamini Swarnapala