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Golden era for sport at hand - Things that Matter column

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The goal of achieving 10 or more Olympic Gold medals by the year 2024 created debate. There were those who felt, and probably still do, that its unrealistic.  They think that making the leap from two Olympic champions to 10 by 2024 is beyond real. Then there are those who understand that achieving that goal must first begin in the mind.

What comes next?  Having accepted mentally that achieving  10 golds is possible and is not out of reach, the next step is how are we  going to get those 10 or more gold medals. The  Olympic Committee has conducted a survey and a follow up is now due. The survey and other research based sources are aimed at providing important data and  analysis.

Budgets have to be done. Assessments,monitoring and evaluation. What are the targets and projections? These specific targets must be established within the context of a long term athlete development programme. Harnessing the abundant talent and potential can be done if there is a systematic approach. Winning medals are the end result of a systematic approach be it local or foreign.

When one considers the performances of T&T on the sporting stage in recent weeks. It’s about time that we put our collective energies to work. We can make a name a positive name for T&T on the global sport stage. I accept that based on all the economic experts T&T is facing a daunting economic future. The predictions are that who ever wins the upcoming national election must make some hard decisions.

That being so. There may well be the view that sport is surplus to requirements. It is hoped that this is not going to be the attitude towards sport. Give T&T sport a fighting chance. Double even triple the allocations to sport. But put in effective monitoring and evaluation systems.  Get the key stakeholders involved. Let them say what they want.

The funny thing is that even as this column is calling to triple the allocation, we are mindful that certain changes require an attitudinal and mindset change more than a monetary one. It can be done. Lets give it a really good go. With one year to go to Rio Olympics lets put  a huge effort behind a podium quest.

Lets aim to exceed the London 2012 medal count. Be not afraid of the challenge. Lets not be intimidated. Lets go for it. There is little margin for error with 365 days to go to Rio 2016. Let me take this opportunity to congratulate this country's Toronto 2015 Pan Am Games team, Soca Warriors and The Red Steel. They all lifted the spirits of a nation buffeted by an intolerable crime situation.

The joy that spreads through the nation because of the positive exploits on the field of sport is there for all to see. Time and time again sport has delivered. What more can sport do to prove its case? T&T,  the dawn of a new golden era for sport is at hand. Lets not blow it because of short sightedness.

Brian Lewis is the president of the T&T Olympic Committee. The views expressed are not necessarily those of the Olympic Committee. 
Support #10Golds24 Athlete Welfare and Preparation Fund make your donations to any branch of Scotiabank account number 171188.



Serrette: Toronto is just a stepping stone

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President of the National Association of Athletic Administration Ephraim Serrette hopes that T&T’s performance at the recently concluded Pan American Games in Toronto, Canada will be a stepping stone for bigger things to come. T&T’s squad bagged eight medals at the meet, a national record, including six in track and field to rank 15th out of 29 countries overall.

Looking ahead to next month’s IAAF World Championships in Beijing and further down the road to the Olympics in Rio next year, Serrette said the country’s athletes were showing a lot of promise. “It was an exceptional performance,” he said. “The athletes did us proud and it augers well for the future.”

The track and field athletes won three gold medals (Kershorn Walcott (Javelin), Cleopatra Borel (Shot Put) and the 4x400 metres relay quartet of Machel Cedenio, Jarrin Solomon, Renny Quow and Lalonde Gordon. Mikel Thomas (110 Hurdles) and Machel Cedenio (400m) won silver. However, he noted that a different standard of competition would await them in Beijing.

“The Pam Am Games are something of a dress rehearsal for the World Championships, but we have to remember that the Americans and Jamaicans sent second and third string teams. They were still strong but a lot of big names were missing. It served as good preparation but our athletes who medalled will now have to turn up a gear to succeed on the world stage.”

Serrette commended the T&T Olympic Committee for recently launching its medal incentive programme, which he felt had had its desired effect. “I can’t say exactly how much it influenced the athletes but it was a good gesture by the TTOC,” he said. He added that he hoped to see improvement from the Women’s 4x100m team, which did not complete its semifinal in Toronto.

“I hope they will go back to drawing board,” he said. “We had high expectations from them after they won bronze at the IAAF World Relays in May. Now with Kelly Ann (Baptiste) and Semoy (Hackett) back on the team, they should be a very strong unit.”



A year away, Olympic organizers counting on sun and samba

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RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Rio de Janeiro conjures clear images of sun, samba and soccer. Organizers of the Olympics that start a year from now hope that's what people remember after the games — not images of polluted water, inefficient transportation and incomplete venues.

The Rio Olympics that start Aug. 5, 2016, follow last year's World Cup, which ended with mixed results.

A year of protests over lavish spending on soccer stadiums dissolved once the World Cup started. Fans from around the world embraced Brazil, and the stadiums looked ready enough on television even if many were still incomplete. Several have become underused white elephants" that cost local governments millions to maintain.

Now come the Summer Games, which are more complex and put Brazil under scrutiny again.

Instead of a one-month tournament with 730 players, the 16-day Olympics feature 28 sports, 300 events and 10,500 athletes; almost all in a metropolitan area of about 12 million people.

Construction got off to a slow start. And so did ticket sales.

"If you compare our numbers with the classic London numbers, you're going to see that we got off a little late," said Mario Andrada, spokesman for the Rio Olympics. He called Brazilians "last-minute people."

"But there's no doubt in our minds that we are going to sell out the tickets."

It will take years to know if the Olympics improved life for  Cariocas, as Rio residents are known. And if so, who profited the most from spending $12 billion in public and private money.

The head of the local organizing committee Carlos Nuzman says Rio will be the Olympic city with the "greatest transformation," surpassing Tokyo in 1964 and Barcelona in 1992.

An Olympics can change a city's reputation for good or bad.

Beijing showcased a rising power, but outsiders also glimpsed the control of an authoritarian state. Athens took a beating for preparations __ similar to Rio — and some of Greece's financial problems are linked Olympic spending.

At quick look at preparations with South America's first games opening Aug. 5, 2016.



The sailing and wind-surfing venue in Guanabara Bay, and the rowing and canoeing venue at the Rodrigo de Freitas lagoon, feature beautiful backdrops spoiled by sewage-filled water and floating debris. Rio officials promised cleaning the bay would be an Olympic legacy. But Rio Mayor Eduardo Paes has said that won't happen. A dramatic photo in the Rio newspaper O Globo recently showed trash wrapped around the tail of a dolphin in the bay.

Rio hopes to get by with stopgaps; a fleet of rubbish collection boats and barricades built where garbage gushes in from hilltop slums.

Some sailors competing in test events in Rio have called Guanabara Bay "an open sewer," and many have tried to minimize contact with the water to avoid illnesses.

"I don't think I would go swimming in that lagoon," said Matt Smith, head of the World Rowing Federation.



The new Olympic golf course and the athletes' village will become luxury real estate develpments after the Olympics. The units at the golf course start at about $2 million. The projects involve public and private money, with much of the income going to the private developers.

Two largely government-funded developments are a subway extension from central Rio into Barra da Tijuca — the heart of the games — and rapid transit bus lines that reach many corners of the city. The subway line extension faces a tight deadline.

"The subway line is going to be delivered just before the games, so of course we're worried about that," said Sidney Levy, CEO of the organizing committee.

Part of the Olympic Park will serve afterward as Brazil's Olympic training center. A section of the Olympic Park will become residential space. Some of that space has yet to be vacated with residents in a slum called Vila Autodromo holding out for better compensation.



Street crime in Rio has spiked as drug traffickers in the city's slums — known as favelas — fight back against police and soldiers trying to "pacify" the neighborhoods. Muggings are increasing in the upscale south and west of the city, which will host most of the Olympics. A cyclist was recently stabbed to death at the Olympic rowing venue.

City officials are confident the problems won't leak over to the Olympics.

"The World Cup was organized without any major incidents, and we expect that this will be the same for the games," said Christophe Dubi, Olympic Games Executive Director.



President Dilma Rousseff, whose popularity has plunged as the country slides in recession, said recently she will be more involved in Olympic preparations. She's hoping the Olympics will improve the country's mood, and boost her poll numbers.

Levy says the games should inspire Brazilians, and they could use some.

State-run oil company Petrobras lost $2.1 billion in a kickback scheme that saw firm executives take bribes for awarding inflated contracts. In June, police arrested the CEOs of two of Brazil's largest construction companies, including the head of Odebrecht, which helped build many World Cup and Olympic venues.

Levy, the CEO, has repeated often that Rio is running clean games devoid of corruption.



A last-minute rush seems inevitable, and late work is sure to drive up costs.

Levy seems relaxed, particularly with the two biggest stadiums — both soccer facilities — already constructed.

"We're not building anything big," he said. "We're not building a cathedral."

A study by Said Business School at Oxford University of Olympic Games since 1960 showed each one had cost overruns.

"No other type of megaproject is this consistent regarding cost overrun," authors Bent Flyvberg and Allison Stewart wrote.  "Other project types are typically on budget from time to time, but not the Olympics."



Pan Am gains no mask for sport ills ...says head of the Olympic Committee

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Success at the Pan American Games in Toronto, Canada, which ended at the weekend, should not be used to mask the failing systems that exist in sports, says Brian Lewis, president of the T&T Olympic Committee (TTOC).

T&T secured eight medals, three gold; three silver and two bronze but Lewis said the country should not be conned.

Lewis said: “I don’t want us to use that to cover the shortcomings and gaps that exist in the sports system in T&T. Much more have to be done. I do believe the best is yet to come.”

While medals were being won at the Pan American Games, said Lewis, many sporting disciplines in T&T, still did not have access to the country’s sporting facilities. Further, so-called sport fans were not committed to their preferred sport and the athletes that specialise in it, until the athletes were engaged in a do or die contest.

“We are building a lot of facilities, but there has to be a stadium use policy because as much as we are doing, a number of sportsmen and women and a number of national teams don’t have access to the facilities in the volume and times that they need,” he said.

Lewis described as “interesting” recent developments in the sports sector related to public/private partnerships. He has been paying particular attention to remarks by sports minister Brent Sancho who was on record declaring that sporting facilities must earn revenue and ultimately pay their way.

The TTOC officials and the line minister were at odds on this issue, however.

“I don’t know what the context of that is, but that needs to be very carefully thought through and discussed. If it is a Government policy and they make sport one of the key pillars of national development, then they will see the investment in sport as just that, an investment rather than as expenditure. From a policy perspective, I don’t see anybody saying that schools must be revenue earners; that health facilities must be revenue earners; that the national security facilities–the fire stations and the police stations–must be revenue earners,” said Lewis.

He added: “I am saying if sports facilities must be revenue earners in and of their own right, you are really telling me that you are not giving sport the same consideration and prioritisation that you are giving health, education and national security. I firmly believe that sport is an important aspect of national development.

“We see countries such as Singapore and Qatar and Brazil that have made sports a key part of whatever big vision they have for their sustainable development. We really need to get the policy makers and the politicians into that head space where sport is concern.”

But despite those issues, Lewis said the TTOC remained athlete focused and described the efforts of his executive and the initiatives to be achieved, as work in progress.

“As far as I am concerned, there is much more that the Olympic Committee can do and must do and I also think that the Olympic Committee cannot do it alone. Even in the context of ten or more Olympic gold medals by the year 2024, it must become more than a TTOC goal. It must become a national goal.

“There are gaps, there are weaknesses, there and short comings and short falls in the sports system in T&T and we need to address them, because if we don’t address them we are not going to be able to help our athletes push on to their full potential.” Lewis said.



More countries back Coe as he powers ahead in race to become new IAAF President

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Sebastian Coe's campaign to become the next President of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) has received a major boost after he was promised the backing of the Athletic Association Small States of Europe (AASSE), a group of countries who between them have nine votes, and Ireland.

Jonas Egilsson, President of the AASSE, revealed that the group which comprises Andorra, Cyprus, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, Montenegro and San Marino had decided to back Britain's double Olympic gold medallist following his promise to give an Olympic Athletics Dividend of at least $100,000 (£64,000/€91,000) over four years to all 214 members of the IAAF.

Athletics Ireland, meanwhile, has promised to support Coe because of the "outstanding job" he did as chairman of London 2012.

“Seb Coe has all the characteristics, experience and know-how the sport needs in a new leader and we are very happy to confirm in an open manner that we will be voting for him," Ciarán Ó Catháin, President of Athletics Ireland, said.

"He did an outstanding job as chairman of the London 2012 Olympic Games and has proven time and time again he has the morals, vision, leadership skills and passion to lead athletics into a successful future."

More Federations are expected to publicly back Coe's bid later this week.

“The Board of Athletics Ireland completely support my view on this, and having discussed this with many other Federations throughout Europe and the rest of the world, we are confident he will be elected President in four weeks’ time," said Ó Catháin.

“I have discussed his plans extensively with Seb and they mirror the vision of Athletics Ireland in trying to grow the popularity of the sport and bring athletics to new audiences."

Some consolation for Coe's rival, Ukraine's Sergey Bubka, was that Egilsson did promise to vote for him as vice-president.

"Sergey Bubka is an experienced administrator and servant of athletics and we will be voting for him to be vice-president to ensure that these two giants of athletics continue to serve our sport in the years ahead," Egilsson said.

The announcement from the AASSE and Ireland follows earlier pledges from Australia, Germany, Jamaica and New Zealand to back Coe in the election at the IAAF Congress in Beijing on August 19.

Coe is widely seen as the favourite to succeed Senegal's Lamine Diack, who is stepping down after 16 years in the role.

Under the IAAF's one country, one vote system it means the backing of the AASSE and Ireland is just as important as getting the support of leading athletics powers like the United States and Russia.

Coe has already called for a greater focus on creating and supporting strong regional competitions to enhance Member Federation development and create new opportunities for athletes.

“It is especially important for smaller nations and their athletes to have more opportunities to compete at international events given that they are often not able to field large teams at the Olympic Games or IAAF World Championships," he said.

"By creating strong regional championships that cater for both major and developing athletics nations, you provide athletes with international level experience and a clear route map for top level competition outside of their own borders.

"This is a win-win for the athletes, their Member Federations and for growing interest in the sport in emerging nations.

“I very much endorse the recent news by European Athletics which is to provide support for a new competition to be organised by the Small States of Europe in the Olympic year, starting in 2016."