At a special test event held at the Balmain, Couva, venue yesterday, four-time national Olympic swimmer George Bovell III was in awe of the faciltiy’s masterful design and enticing international appeal. The Rio-bound athlete was the first national to dive into the 50m pool and soak in the rewards of what his many years of hard work may have greatly inspired.
The National Aquatic Centre also comprises of a 50m outdoor warmup pool, 25m diving facility, permanent seating for 700, a fitness room with sauna and a Turkish bath and cold water pool. Also put to test yesterday were the scoring, timing, above ground and underwater audio and video systems as well as measurements of the water quality and filtration systems.
Meanwhile, getting in on the action in the water alongside Bovell III were several members of both the national men and women’s water polo teams, Para- athlete Shantol Ince, and other local athletes. Speaking to the seasoned Olympic swimmer after his first splash, Bovell III was pleased that his sport could now have a home on TT soil.
“It’s (home for swimming) been in the news since 2003 and it’s great that I’ve lived to see this and be able to enjoy it today,” said Bovell III from the clear waters.
“When I now started off swimming you should have seen the pool; green in colour, six lanes, just a big hole in the ground. And to now see that we have reached at the highest of the sport internationally with this facility is amazing.” However, the Olympic bronze medallist reiterated the importance of proper maintenance of the facility with great emphasis on creating revenue and being sustainable.
“We need to market this to the world,” he added. “We need to get teams from around the globe to come and enjoy our weather and facility and boost our economy.
There’s a lot university and professional teams, around winter time, that receive money to Bahamas, Cayman Islands, Bermuda and sometimes Barbados to train. If we could capture some of that market, it would allow this facility to be sustainable. The money coming in from those visiting teams would allow us to upkeep this at no cost to us. I have travelled around the world and have a long established network that we can hopefully tap into.” Also on hand at yesterday’s test event was Minister of Sport Darryl Smith, who shared similar sentiments on this venue becoming its own generator of income.
Smith and his team are currently working assiduously to confirm the naming rights and an established brand, which would in the end, welcome revenue. Naming one of the professional pools at the state-of-the-art facility in recognition of Bovell III is also a likely possibility.
“The Sport Company (SporTT) and I are actually thinking about naming the main pool after George,” said Smith. “I still have to take that proposal to Cabinet but I don’t think it would be a problem naming one of the pools (after him) and some of the other pools in recognition of others who have done well. But we want to get revenue.
We have to get revenue so we can maintain and have proper functions happening here. At the end of the day we want to make sure that we maintain this high-maintenance facility because there is really nothing like this in the Caribbean. We want to ensure we have the right people to manage it.” Bovell III also urged the next generation of swimmers, and newcomers alike, to get more involved in the sport and make full use of TT’s first professional Aquatic Centre. He also hopes to continuously serve as a respected sporting example to upcoming athletes.
“This next generation coming up, not only do they have an example of someone who has gone out there from this six lane hole in the ground pool and done what he has done with the limited resources that he had, but they have the means and the example to follow so I am looking forward to an incredibly bright future for swimming in Trinidad and Tobago,” Bovell III concluded.
Also attending yesterday’s test event were Chinese Ambassador Huang Xingyuan, SporTT chairman Michael Phillips, and chief executive officer Adrian Raymond, Member of Parliament for Couva South Rudy Indarsingh, several members of the Ministry of Sport, Amateur Swimming Association of Trinidad and Tobago and local swim clubs.