SQUANDERMANIA

Print PDF

Latest News

A SPECIAL AUDIT into the operations of the Sports Company of Trinidad and Tobago (Sportt) done by the Office of the Auditor General has found hundreds of millions have been paid out over the years by the company for sporting facilities which are still incomplete; escalating costs; unjustified expenses for high-capital projects; wasted millions on recreation grounds; duplication and a history of expensive litigation relating to staff.

The Auditor General’s report, dated November 28, 2014, was tabled in the Senate last week Tuesday and has been obtained in full by Sunday Newsday. It represents the last major report overseen by Sharman Ottley, whose tenure as Auditor General came to an end earlier this month.

The report paints a damning picture of the special purposes state enterprise which had been ostensibly set up in 2004 under the PNM to facilitate the implementation of sport policy and which remains in operation under the current Government.

The Auditor General found:

* a total of $411 million was spent from 2009 to 2013 on sporting facilities meant to provide “sport for all”, but that purported goal has not been achieved;

* Sportt is now managing a whopping $2.3 billion in projects, but has no sound means of measuring progress on its objectives, gaps in records and has committed reporting breaches;

* $7.5 million in legal and other costs arose from one mass cull of staff in 2011;

* in one litigation matter the company lost, a former employee was awarded $90,000 though the employee worked “less than a day” at Sportt;

* $2.5 million has been paid to contractors/consultants for a recreation ground facility at Grand Riviere though it remains incomplete and is currently deteriorating.

The Auditor General noted that Sportt is managing 182 projects including planned national facilities such as an aquatic centre; a cycle velodrome; a tennis centre; and three “multi-purpose” centres. Also under management are regional recreation grounds; local corporation grounds; and stadia.

While millions have been allocated for the highly-touted aquatic centre, velodrome and tennis centre, the Auditor General found Sportt was unable to justify high levels of expenditure for these projects.

“The Ministry of Sport, in justifying the development and construction of the three national facilities, highlights the need to develop, on an incremental scale, potential athletes for competitions at the national and international levels,” the Report states. “ Neither the Ministry of Sport nor Sportt was able to provide a ‘Sport for All’ rationale for selecting high expenditure National Facility projects in cycling, swimming and tennis.”

Further, “Measures are not in place to collect or analyse data related to membership and participation from the national sporting organisations for each of these three and other disciplines. Additionally, Sportt does not have performance indicators to measure potential growth in these sporting disciplines to inform the construction of these projects.” The projects are further dogged by delays and escalating costs.

The Report states, “From 2005, the Ministry of Sport has sought and received approvals from Cabinet for a range of projects that have yet to be delivered. In all the high expenditure projects that we reviewed, progress has been slow. In one instance, approval was granted nine years ago, in April 2005, for the development and construction of three multi-purpose facilities that have not yet begun.”

The Auditor General finds that, “The slow rate of progress, in all instances, has significantly increased estimated costs. Our overall conclusion is that Sportt is not giving sufficient attention to financial planning and risk management in the development and implementation of important projects, which has impacted the economy, efficiency and effectiveness of delivery of sporting facilities.” On staff, the Report states the company has a high turnover which has hurt its efficiency.

“Sportt has experienced frequent staff changes, throughout the organisation, since its establishment in 2004,” the Report states. “Five Chief Executive Officers left the organisation over the ten-year period: the services of three were terminated and two resigned. Typically, the appointment of a new Chief Executive Officer was slow.”

Over the ten-years, Sportt was without a Chief Executive Officer for five periods totalling three years and six months. In one instance, the post was vacant for almost 21 months: from July 6, 2008 to 31, 2010.

The Auditor General remarks: “The absence and frequent changes of Chief Executive Officer adversely affected Sportt’s administration and operations.” For example, projects were not being delivered; financial statements had not been produced; annual general meetings were not held and there was a lack of strategic approach. The billion-dollar company also had no records of confirmed board minutes prior to November 2011. There was an expensive restructuring of staff done by a consultant but the company had no records of its contractual agreement with this consultant.

“The year 2011 presented challenges, with more than 58 percent of staff leaving,” the Report states. “This resulted from an Organisational Review and Redesign Exercise implemented by Sportt’s Board of Directors, in January 2011. De Edge Consulting Limited was engaged for this exercise. Sportt did not keep records of the contractual agreement, consultant reports or payments made to them.” The cost of the exercise was determined to be $1 million. After the exercise, 32 of the 75 staff members, including the Chief Executive Officer, were dismissed. Litigation followed, the bills for which are still being paid three years later.

“Individual staff, whose employment at Sportt was terminated, took legal action for compensation,” the Auditor General states. “Nine cases have been finalised with total settlements in excess of $2.5 million. In five of the nine cases, Sportt had no record of contractual agreements for the respective staff. However, the respective terminated staff had their contracts in their possession.”

In one of the concluded cases, a former employee, “who worked for less than one day” was awarded $90,000 in a claim for unfair dismissal. Sportt expects further payments of about $6 million. Legal representation for one case alone was $137,000. None of the lawsuits were reported to the Ministry of Finance before April 2014, in breach of public sector reporting requirements.

Some attention is paid in the Report to the Grand Riviere Recreation Ground.

Of this project, the Report states, “In February 2007, Sportt awarded a contract to D&L Contracting, for just over $2.4 million, to undertake construction works at Grande Riviere Recreation Ground. The completion date was April 2008. Payments in excess of $2 million (93 percent of the contract value) were made, but Sportt did not ensure completion of the works.”

Further, “In March 2012, five years later, Sportt awarded a contract for almost a quarter-of-a-million dollars to Exeqtech Limited for consultancy services. Sportt paid $125,000, but the project was not completed.” Then, “In March 2013, Sportt contracted another company at a cost of $307,000 for design works.” Three companies later, the works are unfinished and deteriorating.

The audit involved interviews, a focus group, review of documentation, site visits, analysis of financial data and discussions with key personnel at the Ministry of Sport and at Sportt. Work was done from October 2013 to March 2014.

The remit of the Auditor General’s special audit did not appear to include the controversial Lifesport programme which was, in part, administered by Sportt. That programme was shutdown after a Government-ordered review found possible instances of fraud, theft, and maladministration.

Source

The Olympic Games Opening Ceremony: a fine and proud very British occasion

Print PDF

Latest Olympic News

This was a stripped down Opening Ceremony, revealing the truth of so many elements of Britain's history that we take as read in a vivid and beautifully modulated show which presaged a coup de theatre which confounded all the – heated - discussion about Who Would Light The Olympic Cauldron.

Not David Beckham. Nor Daley Thompson, nor Kelly Holmes, nor even five-times Olympic champion Sir Steve Redgrave, although all played their part in bearing the Torch on the final stages of long journey to this stadium in east London.

Finally, the ancient Flame was transferred to its temporary resting place by collective youth – seven young athletes nominated by seven of Britain's greatest Olympians and acting jointly to ignite a "Flame of Unity" composed of copper "petals" within a giant bowl in the centre of the stadium which formed itself into a group of firebrands.

Not so much an Olympic cauldron as an Olympic thicket.

And when you think about it, this was entirely in keeping with an Olympics which was drawn towards London rather than Paris by the emphasis the British bidders laid upon what these Games could do for the nation's youth.

Beckham glided on a speedboat up the Thames, along the River Lee, bearing the Flame; Redgrave brought it from the river into the stadium along a lit bridge, playing yet another significant sporting role for his country, but this time not on water but land.

Meanwhile Sarah Stevenson, the 2008 taekwondo Olympic bronze medallist whose parents both died last year and who has overcome injury to secure her place at these Games, took the Athletes' Oath. It was a profoundly touching honour for a determined and courageous competitor – on what was a profoundly touching night.

Gone were the huge battalions of Beijing. The stadium was not always filled with noise – images and captions of the screens did much of the necessary work.

The central field was not always filled with performers.

The whole show ebbed and flowed, offering successive images and sounds to remind us of and reconnect us with the deepest parts of our national life.

Abide With Me, the setpiece anthem of so many FA Cup finals, was sung with quiet fervour by Akram Khan and Emeli Sande as a small but perfectly formed dance troupe performed in dramatic orange lighting under the disc of an imaginary sun: the old made fresh and new.

The Torch Ceremony was preceded by fireworks and the Arctic Monkeys, playing among other songs the Beatles' Come Together – energy in vivid abundance.

As the teams marched in – to the constant beating of drums – any trepidation about the appearance of North Korea after the Old Trafford flag fiasco was quickly quelled.

It was the correct flag.

Strangely the South Koreans also managed to flourish the correct flag too.

It's not hard, is it?

The succession of excited athletes marching behind their nominated flagbearer and a demurely smiling young maid bearing the name of the nation in a silvery sign above her head recalled directly the Opening Ceremonies of times past. The numerous athletes recording the appearance on mobile phone cameras reminded of times present.

But it is one of enduring richnesses of the Olympics that so many nations are involved, nations that do not tend to find a profile within world sport except for this four-yearly procession: Aruba, Benin, Bhutan, British Virgin Islands, Kiribati, Kyrgyzslan, Federated States of Micronesia, Lao People's Democratic Republic, Nauru, Sao Tome and Principe, Timor Leste...

The names, the excited faces, have a cumulative and moving power.

Here the world is, so much of it, and we, Britain, are hosts. 1908, 1948, now.

The turn-out for the United States team was huge – its squad stretched easily down the straight and round the bend.

A statement of intent?

The roar for the British – last, as hosts, but by no means likely to be last in the medals table – was predictably marked.

The team's arrival was marked by a storm of white confetti – mirroring their white outfits with fold trim.

Out they came to the sound of David Bowie's Heroes – just for one night.

Up in the Royal Box, hands clapped along.

Such is the bizarre power of Olympics.

The evening's entertainment had begun peacefully, quietly – bucolically in fact – with pastoral scenes on a British meadow upon which country folk cavorted and real cows, goats and geese blithered about.

Although the cottage in the centre of infield looking , frankly, inflammatory and deserving of the attention of the many fire marshals who have been busying themselves on the Olympic site over the last few weeks.

In a brief appearance before the Ceremony-proper had got underway, the director, Danny Boyle, offered a welcome and a hope that it would not rain – which, but for five minutes, proved founded.

He concluded with a quote from Billy Connolly: "I don't believe in God, but I believe in the people who do" – referencing those who were the keepers of the Olympic spirit.

Not quite sure what he meant by this.

The fervent hope was that the ringing of the Olympic Bell at the end of the countdown minutes after the Ceremony-proper began would not see any repeat of the incident earlier in the day when a handbell rung on camera by the Culture Minister Jeremy Hunt detached itself from its handle and flew just past the head of a nearby young woman.

Hunt's ding-dong moment came as part of the day's Ring The Bells activity – now known as the Great Bells Up.

The countdown arrived and was negotiated in orderly fashion, upon which Bradley Wiggins, Britain's first Tour de France winner, arrived in his yellow jersey and approached the biggest bicycle bell he had ever rung and rung it, firmly, once, without referring to raffle tickets or anything else.

A choir sang Jerusalem and – smart work on the big display screens – a picture of Jonny Wilkinson wheeling in triumph from that World Cup drop-kick coincided with the words "chariots of fire".

So good that we didn't cut to the ludicrous racing along the sand which has become the quick ID of the film of that name – although we did get a spoof version featuring Rowan Atkinson later, which was also good and in the informal spirit of this event.

As had been rumoured, there was an airing for God Save The Queen – the Sex Pistols' version, that was.

However, the informality of the event did not stretch to playing the line "she ain't no human being"; nor indeed did the excerpt from London Calling by The Clash extend to the bit about "a nuclear error".

The history of our nation was swiftly dealt with as we began with a thunderous depiction of the Industrial Revolution which concluded with an acknowledgement of the great Sigmund Freud – whose groundbreaking work on the human mind began soon after the Revolution had finished – as sex giant smokestack chimneys tumesced their way between banks of green sward.

But, hang on. Wasn't Freud Austrian? (And, of course, I meant six giant smokestack chimneys. Sorry.)

Before long the smokestacks were doing what smokestacks do – it looked a Health and Safety nightmare from where we were sitting two rows in from the action – but then, as we have already established, there were ample fire marshals in attendance.

Soon, however, the fire marshals had something else to worry about: the sight of five Olympic rings of "molten steel" shedding fireworks directly above the head of the bucolic actors on the green fields beneath.

Soon, there was a mighty murmur of surprise as the audience realised that the film showing on the big screen in which Daniel Craig, as James Bond, was ushered into a room in "Buckingham Palace" where a silver-haired "Queen" was seated with her back to him, ignoring him until he cleared his throat, was really showing a room in Buckingham Palace.

And, as the turning figure revealed, was really featuring the Queen.

The pair was then shown leaving the Palace en route for a helicopter which then flew over London's landmarks, and under the Olympic Rings suspended beneath Tower Bridge, before reaching the stadium, where they parachuted out.

It soon became clear, however, that spectators had been cruelly duped, as the real Queen arrived in the stand accompanied by the Duke of Edinburgh and the IOC President Jacques Rogge – all very disappointing.

By way of welcome, a choir of children very nicely sang the National Anthem – and more than one verse of it too.

No plastic Brits on show tonight, thank you.

The centrefield then filled with nurses pushing beds – thankfully, despite the late disappearance of the stunt biking and other elements from the Ceremony because of worries about people being able to get transport home, the National Health had avoided further cuts.

Irresistible – spotting the groups and the acts as the Ceremony celebrated British popular music.

Oh yes, we are really good at this. The Who. The Beatles. The Clash. The Jam. The Sex Pistols. The Prodigy. Blur. Dizzee Rascal. Just imagine if Paris had won the bid – it would have been 20 minutes of Johnny Hallyday (is that terribly unkind?).

Next, we were invited to join Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web, as his words "This is for everyone" appeared writ large on the audience.

In his welcoming address, the London 2012 chairman Sebastian Coe said: "I have never been so proud to be British and to be a part of the Olympic Movement as I am on this day at this moment.

In every Olympic sport there is all that makes life worth living.

"Humans stretched to the limit of their capabilities, inspired by what they can achieve, driven by their talent to work harder than they can believe possible, living for the moment but making an indelible mark on history."

Fine words to conclude a fine and proud occasion

By Mike Rowbottom

Source:www.insidethegames.biz

Mayor Boris gets his wish: London "knocks their socks off" with magical Olympic Opening Ceremony

Print PDF

Latest Olympic News

The London 2012 Olympics got off to the best possible start on the banks of the Thames last night, as artistic director Danny Boyle's breathtaking 100-minute Opening Ceremony captivated an 80,000 crowd packed with celebrities and VIPs.

From the moment yellow-jerseyed Tour de France winner Bradley Wiggins opened proceedings at 9pm GMT with a single chime of the 23-tonne Olympic bell, the audience was subjected to a joyous assault on the senses that catapulted them through 200 years of British history from the industrial to the digital revolution, the latter embodied by the presence of Sir Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the world wide web.

The answer to the night's great secret, the identity of the lighter of the Olympic cauldron in the centre of the stadium, was not revealed until well after midnight – and virtually none of the speculation that had accompanied the build-up to the Games was right.

The honour was bestowed on seven young athletes said to represent the host nation's hopes for the next Olympics and beyond, in keeping with the emphasis on youth maintained by the London project since it won the right to host the 2012 Games in Singapore seven years ago.

The most daring of many spectacular coups de theatres that preceded this came when the Queen appeared – repeat, appeared – to parachute into the stadium from a helicopter, accompanied by James Bond actor Daniel Craig.

But, from Ken Loach to Harry Potter, there was scarcely a cultural reference-point that wasn't touched upon in a show that also included a snatch of the Sex Pistols' version of God Save the Queen, a song once famously banned by Olympic broadcaster the BBC, and a Mini or two, much to the delight, no doubt, of London 2012 sponsor BMW.

Other highpoints included the climax of the industrial revolution segment, with the Olympic rings, in red hot steel suspended over the stadium bathed in blue light; a cameo by Rowan Atkinson, the comedian behind Mr Bean, as the white-mopped Sir Simon Rattle conducted music from the Olympics film Chariots of Fire; and an extended passage celebrating the National Health Service (NHS), featuring hundreds of children and NHS beds and employees.

If it could not quite match the sheer jaw-dropping awe of Beijing's Opening Ceremony of four years ago, Boyle's £27 million ($42 million/€34 million) creation was infused with a warmth and humanity notably lacking from that no-expense-spared paean to China's emergence as a global power.

If that 2008 show was, at heart, a celebration of uniformity, this was a crowded, phantasmagorical hymn to diversity.

After a long interlude while the 205 athlete delegations filed colourfully in, culminating with Britain, led by Flagbearer Sir Chris Hoy, the Arctic Monkeys heralded the most formal part of proceedings.

First, from an artificial green hill, now bedecked with flags, to one end of the stadium, we were all welcomed by London 2012 chairman Sebastian Coe.

"In the next two weeks, we will show all that has made London one of the greatest cities in the world," Coe promised.

"This is our time"

In a short address, dwelling on London's unique role in Olympic history as the host of three Summer Games spanning more than a century, International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Jacques Rogge proclaimed: "The Olympic Games are coming home tonight."

Rogge also emphasised that for the first time in Olympic history all participating teams would have female members, in a development he described as "a major boost for gender equality".

Fittingly it was left to a woman, Her Majesty the Queen, seemingly none the worse for her parachute glide, to declare the Games open.

And then it was on to the raising of the Olympic flag in the presence of a frail Muhammad Ali and the night's concluding moment: the symbolic lighting of the Olympic cauldron by the seven young Torchbearers.

The day had started with the Queen's rowbarge Gloriana carrying the Olympic Flame down the Thames, trailed by a flotilla, as it neared the end of its 70-day, 8,000-mile journey around Britain.

At 8.12am, bells rang out across Britain for three minutes.

British Prime Minister David Cameron declared the country "ready to welcome the greatest show on earth".

And what do you know? He was right.

If I may end with one mildly discordant note, it was that we nearly ended up relating these great events under a length of plastic sheeting – the organisers' disconcertingly primitive means of combating the threat of possible rain.

As it turned out, we stayed dry, by the skin of our teeth.

But in an isle which, as we all know, is full of weather as well as noises, this was just not good enough.

By David Owen at the Olympic Stadium in London

Source: www.insidethegames.biz

Lewis Hamilton beats Rory McIlroy to take BBC sports personality award

Print PDF

Latest News

Lewis Hamilton defied the heavy favouritism bestowed on Rory McIlroy, as the Formula One world champion won the BBC’s Sports Personality of the Year award in Glasgow on Sunday evening.

With minutes to go before the winner was announced, McIlroy was heavily favoured to become the first golfer in 25 years to lift the trophy. Instead, Hamilton prevailed with 209, 920 telephone votes from 620,932 cast, with the golfer edged into second place on 123, 745. Athlete Jo Pavey, a source of inspiration to many on account of distance running heroics, took third on 99,931 votes.

Hamilton, who later admitted he would have voted for McIlroy were he watching at home, seemed slightly shocked when addressing the 12,000 crowd at the SSE Hydro arena. “I really wasn’t expecting that,” he said, “especially as I was watching all of the videos during the awards. We are really talking about some of the great sportspeople of our time.

“I am really, really taken aback. I am overwhelmed and feel so honoured. I have an amazing following but you never know how well you are appreciated throughout the whole of the UK. I would have been proud just to be amongst these people, who have done such amazing things.

“When I was growing up in Stevenage, of course I wanted to be a racing driver and be the best in the world but I didn’t ever contemplate all the people who would support or follow me. I just wanted to be the best.”

Damon Hill, in 1996, was the last Formula One driver to win the BBC title.

McIlroy was gracious in defeat, despite being entitled to feel disappointed. This was a year in which the 25-year-old claimed two major championships and surged back to the top of the world rankings.

“Lewis has had a fantastic year so I have no complaints,” said the Northern Irishman. “This was his second world championship and he dominated the F1 season.

“I had a lot of support out there. To finish second is still a great achievement. Hopefully if I can achieve just as much next year, if not more, I can go one better.”

McIlroy’s fellow golfer Ian Poulter took to Twitter to suggest it was ridiculous that McIlroy was upstaged by Hamilton.

Golf was represented among the winners, though. Paul McGinley, who masterminded Europe’s comprehensive success over the United States at the Ryder Cup, was presented with the coach of the year award. The Irishman paid special tribute “first and foremost to the people of Scotland” for their backing of the European cause at Gleneagles.

McGinley added: “It was very much a team effort, I had a lot of people in place to help me. It has been a wonderful time in my life. People are very gracious, they say lovely things. What has pleased me most is seeing the pride they have.”

The England women’s rugby union team, who claimed the World Cup with a victory over Canada in Paris, was named as the team of the year. Their captain, Katy McLean, hailed this recognition as “a massive turning point for women’s sport”.

Former cyclist Sir Chris Hoy was presented with a lifetime achievement award by Prince Harry and footballer Cristiano Ronaldo appeared via recorded video message after being named as the overseas sports personality of the year.

“This really is incredibly special to me,” said Hoy. “I thought my days of getting emotional were over when I retired but it’s impossible not to be when you hear such special words. I feel like the luckiest guy around, I can’t believe I was able to do what I love for so many years.

“I looked at some of the names who have won this trophy before me, Seve Ballesteros, Pele, Martina Navratilova. To have my name beside them is quite surreal.”

Source

Athletics crisis on a par with Ben Johnson and Balco scandals, says Coe

Print PDF

Latest News

Lord Coe, the IAAF vice-president who hopes to run athletics from next year, has admitted the crisis facing the sport is as serious as those sparked by the Ben Johnson and Balco doping scandals.

The former London 2012 chairman said allegations of systematic doping in Russian athletics, claims of a cover-up that involves senior IAAF figures and questions over the role of the son of the president, Lamine Diack, had added up to “a ghastly week for athletics”.

“We have to bring this tawdry, sorry episode to a close as quickly as we possibly can,” said Coe, who is likely to face a challenge from the Ukrainian IAAF vice-president, Sergey Bubka, for the presidency.

Coe said in his 40 years in athletics as a competitor and administrator the allegations facing the sport ranked alongside the shame of the 1988 Olympic 100m gold medallist Johnson and the Balco scandal that led to Marion Jones being banned.

“This is up there. Nobody is remotely suggesting these allegations are not serious,” he said. “I’m not afraid of embarrassment here. I would rather deal with this now than get to the point where nobody cares about the sport,” added Coe, pointing out he had helped to establish the recently convened independent ethics commission.

The president of the Russian athletics federation, Valentin Balakhnichev, has stepped down from his role as IAAF treasurer while the claims of institutionalised cheating are investigated, despite denouncing them as a “pack of lies”. Papa Massata Diack, an IAAF marketing adviser and the son of the organisation’s 81-year-old president, also stepped down pending the outcome of an investigation.

The Guardian has seen emails that suggest Papa Massata Diack asked for a $5m payment from Qatar during the bidding race for the 2017 world athletics championships in October 2011. The IAAF has said he denies “receiving any such payment nor ever acting in such a manner on behalf of the IAAF”.

Coe insisted he did not know anything about a list of 150 athletes with suspicious blood values referred to by the German broadcaster ARD. Produced between 2006 and 2008 by an IAAF official, it contains the names of three British athletes including one household name considered to have suspicious blood values.

“I don’t know about the existence of a list. It only got mentioned on German television as the third part of a trilogy,” said Coe, who has been an IAAF vice-president since 2007 and is chair of the British Olympic Association. “I don’t know, the IAAF does not know, what this list contains and whether it is a list that has any veracity at all.”

He said ARD should show the list to the IAAF ethics commission or Wada and said officials were prepared to travel to Berlin to see the filmmaker. Hajo Seppelt, the German documentary maker who uncovered the alleged doping and corruption in Russian athletics, said he had spent several days trying unsuccessfully to meet Coe in Monaco last week in order to discuss the issue.

The IAAF’s ethics commission, chaired by the British QC Michael Beloff, was first alerted to some of the allegations concerning Russian athletes and officials in March and is expected to complete its investigation in a matter of months.

Coe’s likely rival for the presidency, Bubka, has yet to comment in detail on the doping claims or the other allegations threatening to tear the IAAF apart. The Briton said it was dangerous to speculate on the basis of a single list.

“These could be musings, they could be suspicions. I was in athletics for 20 odd years, I was subject to that kind of speculation,” said Coe. “We’ve got to be very careful. A one-off reading does not prove anything at all.”

Coe has pointed to his lifelong battle against doping that included arguing for a life ban, his part in doubling the standard punishment from two years to four and his call for an independent anti-doping unit within the IAAF as evidence of his commitment to clean sport.

Source