Olympic gold medallist Keshorn Walcott will carry the Trinidad and Tobago flag at tonight's Opening Ceremony of the 2016 Olympic Games at the Maracana Stadium in Rio De Janiero, Brazil, as head of a 32 member team.
Minister of Sport Darryl Smith has wished the team the best of luck, urging the nation to be supportive win, lose or draw.
Smith told the Express: “Not just Trinidad and Tobago but the world is going to stop at 6 'o' clock today to watch the opening and for the next few weeks it's Olympic fever. I am very proud of Trinidad and Tobago, the biggest Olympic team ever, we are sending , the most sports events we will be participating in for the Olympics and most importantly, the most females that are going to be participating.”
There are 11 female members of the team that will be participating in eight sporting disciplines.
The Associated Press is projecting that T&T will muster only one medal, in the 4x400 mens relay.
To citizens Smith said: “ Enjoy the journey. Feel their pain, feel their joy. Not everybody could win, just be supportive, win lose or draw that they went out there and represented us the best that they can.”
He said: “ I want to wish all the guys a healthy and safe Olympics. So far, we haven't had any issues with drugs which has hampered a number of countries.” We haven't complained about the lodging and the facilities at Brazil, that shows the athletes are focused and they comfortable. They are just ready to rock and roll and to bring pride to Trinidad and Tobago.”
Smith, who on behalf of his ministry who donated a cheque to Brian Lewis, president of the Trinidad and Tobago Olympic Committee (TTOC) in the sum of $900,000 said the ministry did not have problems donating funds and he was pleased that the money could have been given before the start of the Olympic Games.
The ministry would have also been financially supportive, in the lead up to the big event, assisting in heats and tournaments and some athletes would have needed special assistance he said.
The $900,000 will be for both the Olympic and the Paralympic Games.
The Paralympic Games starts two weeks after the Olympic Games also to be held in Brazil. Trinidad and Tobago have three representatives for the Paralympics, Akeem Stewart (javelin and discus), Shanntol Ince (swimming) and Nyoshia Cain (athletics).
Olympics top priority
Smith is also hoping that the Trinbago Knight Riders win their match against the Jamaican Tallawahs in Friday's Caribbean Premier League(CPL).
But he said: “ That (Olympics) has been our top priority, the Olympics and the Soca Warriors World Cup campaign of course pushing to the development of the grassroots and the primary school levels and maintaining all our facilities to the best and just cleaning up the process of sports in terms of the policies so they would not have any mismanagement and corruption as best as we can in the ministry and the Sport Company.”
Thanks also went out from the minister to citizens and companies who would have sponsored the athletes.
“I want to thank all the corporate Trinidad and Tobago organisations that assisted especially in this tough times that we are seeing with the oil prices. I know there have been some vital sponsors that have been with TTOC throughout this whole campaign and I think the individual national governing bodies (NGBs), all these would have been working with their sponsors as well,” Smith said.
No reward policy in place
And he said he was shocked that there was no policy in place to reward athletes on their accomplishments.
Smith said: “I was actually shocked that there is actually no policy in place in the history of Trinidad and Tobago with regards to rewarding athletes. The three year sports policy ends at the end of this year 2016 and we have already embarked on finalising a new three year policy which that will be part off.”
He said: “In the interim, I am having discussions. I have had a team set up to put things in place from now and they are finalising that with regards to the success in the Olympics. We want a more overall broad policy that will be passed in Cabinet with regards to how we reward athletes, cricketers, footballers, tennis, any sport in Trinidad and Tobago , if at all we are going to reward them and if so how, and let that be policy. We have to have something that is pegged to how the economy is going , we are oil and gas driven so it has to be pegged to that.”
The ministry have been meeting with athletes, coaches, and the relevant governing bodies to get feedback as to how their sporting discipline can be improved Smith said.
When asked about support in terms of education and social security, Smith said: “ That is part of the NGBs to work with the athletes under them. Each sport has a governing body and they are responsible for the athletes under them and they have international codes and standards that they will follow and we are banking heavily on those organisations to assist us and assist the athletes who represent their sport with regards to that.”
And he said he will also not be visiting Brazil for the Olympics as he was busy in preparation for the upcoming fiscal year.