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Lewis Hamilton beats Rory McIlroy to take BBC sports personality award

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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.”

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Registration Open for the SportAccord Convention World Sport & Business Summit in Sochi, Russia, 19-24 April 2015

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LAUSANNE, Switzerland – SportAccord Convention today announced that registration is open for the World Sport & Business Summit, providing the sports community with a global platform and catalyst for growth in this 6-day gathering. The Convention will be held 19 -24 April 2015 in Sochi, Russia, at the Sochi Expocentre. Early-Rate discounts are available for delegates who register before 31 January 2015.

The conference will be attended by over 1,000 organisations, 100 international sport federations and organisations, and 250 exhibitors, with the majority of delegates being Presidents, CEOs and key decision-makers. The conference will host distinguished panellists and speakers including business and sport leaders, inventors, policymakers, media and technology specialists.

Building on the successful legacy of previous Conventions, the World Sport & Business Summit, brings fresh horizons and opportunities. Nis Hatt, Managing Director, SportAccord Convention said:

“We are excited by the level of interest received from delegates, partners, exhibitors, and speakers, as well as sport organisations worldwide. By providing a joint platform, the SportAccord Convention World Sport & Business Summit brings together all levels of sport, economy, media, suppliers, art, culture and visitors, opening up innumerable opportunities.”

To register now, please visit www.sportaccordconvention.com.

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Paragon dominant at TTHB awards

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PARAGON REPRESENTATIVES Akim Toussaint and Alanna Lewis were presented as the top male and female national hockey players for the preceding year at the Trinidad and Tobago Hockey Board’s (TTHB) annual award function which was staged at the VIP Lounge, Hasely Crawford Stadium, Mucurapo yesterday.

With these accolades, the pair was automatically approved to serve as nominees at this year’s First Citizens Sport Foundation Sportsman and Sportswoman of the Year, scheduled for early 2015. Also named among the nation’s top-five hockey players, Toussaint and Lewis were elated with their rewards.

Toussaint was named from a group of Male Players of the Year nominees (national team captain Darren Cowie, Solomon Eccles, Aiden De Gannes and Shaquille Daniel) while Lewis topped the field ahead of Female Players of the Year nominees Patricia Wright Alexis, Brianna Govia, Kyla Brathwaite and Petal Derry.

Paragon were also in winning ways once more as they were adjudged as the best Female Team of the Year backed by Queen’s Park Cricket Club, who bagged the male equivalent.

The Male Youth Player was awarded to Courts Malvern athlete Tariq Marcano while the female equivalent was presented to Govia of Shandy Carib Magnolias. The most decorated goalkeepers of 2014 was delivered to Derry (female) and Andre Rocke (male).

Attending yesterday’s auspicious presentation was TTHB president Douglas Camacho, president of the Trinidad and Tobago Olympic Committee (TTOC) Brian Lewis, Minister of National Security and this year’s Queen’s Park Veteran Division top-scorer Gary Griffith, 2013 World Championships 400-metre hurdles gold medallist Jehue Gordon, other officials of the national hockey fraternity, players, sponsor representatives and other enthusiasts of the blooming sport.

Highlighting TT’s achievements for the preceding year was both the men and women’s strong team performances at round one of the World League Tournament. Both enter the coming season anticipating the second round of competition which kicks off for the males in USA (March) and the females in Uruguay (February). They are also preparing for the Pan American Championships next year.

In his feature address, Gordon, who also plays hockey occasionally, urged the young members of the fraternity to continue pressing ahead towards achieving their competitive and personal goals.

“Continue the fight with a sense of passion,” said Gordon. “You are all heading in the right direction. Stay true to yourself and failure is not an option. Believe in a supreme being, be humble and align yourselves with the right people. To the staff, these players continuously need your support because they are all sport ambassadors for Trinidad and Tobago.”

Additionally, Camacho congratulated all the players and officials especially for producing another highly successful year. He lauded the works of advancing local umpires who put themselves on the line to ensure equality and fairness during matches.

“Our umpires have been called to serve on several international boards and global tournaments which shows their hard work and dedication. Our coaches have been contacted to officiate as well and this is a great step for us as a national unit. Our domestic league has helped us achieve so many things over the years and we will continue to grow in fruition,” said Camacho.

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

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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.

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SQUANDERMANIA

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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.

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