Sri Lankans are sports-conscious. Cricket, introduced by the British in the 18th century, has become the country's most popular sport. When the national team beat Australia to win the 1996 World Cup, the team players were treated as national heroes. Radio broadcasts of games in Tamil, Sinhalese and English can be heard in many public places. In villages, amateur players may replace the regular ball with a mango seed or any other round object.
Elle is Sri Lanka's version of baseball: the ball is smaller and the bat is replaced by a long bamboo stick. Women enjoy badminton and netball. Children spend time playing soccer, volleyball, cricket and hide-and-seek. Families living close to the ocean enjoy going to the beach.
People often spend leisure time with family, at school events or in religious observances. At home, children play a number of games, including engili ellama (spotting the finger), string games similar to cat's cradle, thayam (dice) and board games made from simple materials. Community centres and schools are important places of entertainment: schools regularly promote sporting events, as well as plays, folk drama, dances and musical performances. Parents often attend these events and take great pride in their children's performances. In the cities theatre is popular, and moves, TV and videos have has become extremely so; young people may also go to discos and clubs at the large hotels.
Sri Lanka has a long history of horse racing. Although this sport is now frowned upon, betting on British horse and dog races is a common activity, with little betting shops offering satellite broadcasts of important races.
In Sri Lanka, unexpected visits are welcome. When Sri Lankans visit each other, men and women often break into separate groups. The men may play bridge, while the women get together outside or on the veranda to chat, sing and weave mats and baskets. Particularly in rural areas, storytelling remains an important pastime, both among adults and between adults and children. Folk stories often relate religious and moral themes.