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850 Million Dollars
Posted: Tuesday, May 31, 2005

By Philip Ayoung-Chee FRCS

But seriously, $850 million dollars for what?

Amid much fanfare, it was announced at the Brian Lara Promenade, to build this complex at Marabella. During the euphoria of the moment, as Trinbagonians, we all danced and pranced. Apart from a few like me, no one objected.

At that time, I stated that the Jean Pierre Complex was built for the World Netball Competition in 1979. It was also to accommodate other sports like lawn tennis, basketball, volleyball, badminton, table tennis, etc. To date, none of these sports have been developed to any level, save and except, occasional regional victories. Even netball is in the doldrums.

After Hasely Crawford won the Olympic Gold Medal, again amid much fanfare and "money is no problem" in 1976, a plan for a National Sporting Complex was to be built at Mucorapo. To date, only two pieces were built, and soccer and athletics were not developed to compete at international and regional standards.

For the World Youth Tournament in 2001, four additional stadiums were built, and since then a Professional Soccer League has been in existence. Government assistance to soccer has been but paltry.

Athletics however is totally opposite. Local competitions have been few and very far in-between. We continue to hope for success via the few stars at foreign universities but home grown talent is not being nurtured. Just ask Ayana Hutchinson who is now inactive after completing her studies in USA.

During the pre-Olympic success of Bovell 111, plans were made to have an Olympic sized pool built by December 2003, somewhere up north. This never came to fruition. This is now in the plans for Tarouba but alas, not in the first phase. Caution, what is not in the first phase might be in the never phase.

The Queens Park Oval has been the Mecca of cricket for Trinidad and Tobago and will continue to remain so with its redevelopment. The Trinidad and Tobago Cricket Board is now developing a facility at Balmain Couva with training as its priority. This is supposed to be supporting to the Queens Park Oval. There are other supporting sites at Tobago, Pointe-a-Pierre and Penal. For a country that hosts on average one Test and two One-Day Internationals annually, do we need another facility, which will cost over $100 million dollars and possibly counting?????????????????

The question now is do we need to spend $850 million dollars to build from scratch, this massive complex? For the purposes of cricket, do we need another training facility to compete with that of the Trinidad and Tobago Cricket Board at Couva? Or should some of the money be used instead to assist the Trinidad and Tobago Cricket Board to fully develop their training centre at Balmain Couva as well as develop the supporting grounds at Pointe-a-Pierre, Penal and Tobago for the purposes of first-class cricket?

Following the success of George Bovell 111, an aquatic centre is necessary. This was promised in 1976 and was again promised to be completed by December 2005. Whether it will be fully utilized on a continuous basis is another question!

The Olympic-sized cycling velodrome was again promised since 1976. At that time we had an internationally recognized coach, Bill Hughes and two internationally recognized speed cyclists in Leslie Rawlins and Ian Atherley. We later had a kilometer cyclist, Gene Samuel. Ian Atherley is now Mayor of San Fernando and must be saying "at last, at last, in my backyard".

The Indoor Gymnasium is definitely necessary as most sports are played indoors and at nights. This structure should be massive, capacity of 10,000 and aimed at hosting national championships and regional and international competitions. It must not be looked upon as a training facility. Again the organizational structure of the sporting organizations has to be upgraded.

Apart from the cricketing aspect, I agree that the facilities are necessary. After all, these were promised since 1976 and possibly before. But at $850 million dollars??

But I do have other concerns.

What is the purpose of building these facilities if they are not going to be fully utilized and maintained?

In other words, will sporting organizations become more organized?

Will there be more sport meetings?

Will there be more national competitions?

Will there be more regional and international competitions?

Will government become more involved rather than waiting for cheap publicity by handing out financial pittances and lip service?

Will we have a vibrant Minister of Sports who is not only knowledgeable but not apt to making verbal blunders whilst clamouring for publicity?

Will we have a ministry of sports that is proactive and involved; whose aim should be international recognition and sports tourism?

Promised in 1976, to be delivered in 2006, but $850 million sounds too much!!

But seriously, remove the cricketing aspects and build the facilities but with tight budgetary restraints and open-book transparency.

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