Sri Lanka counts on World Cup to boost image

COLOMBO, April 27, 2007 (AFP) – Sri Lanka is banking on the publicity from the cricket World Cup to attract foreign investment and tourism to the South Asian island nation better known for its separatist conflict. As the home team prepares for the final clash with Australia on Saturday, the Caribbean event has offered an unexpected windfall for promoters battling a barrage of negative publicity amid an escalation of violence.

The island’s tourism authority moved swiftly to cash in on the international media exposure the players and the spectators were getting, drafting in students to grab the attention of television crews and the international press in the Caribbean.

The students held traditional masks, balloons and placards describing bleached-haired Lasith Malinga as a “lad like no other” and Sanath Jayasuriya a “master blaster like no other,” a play on Sri Lanka’s “a land like no other” tourism slogan.

“The World Cup exposure is simply priceless for the country’s image. The team’s success has generated enormous awareness. It’s a shot in the arm for us,” Sri Lanka Tourism Chairman Renton de Alwis said.

De Alwis is hoping the world’s media, usually preoccupied with the island’s 35-year-old