Fund athletes’ training
Thursday, August 16 2012
WHILE Trinidad and Tobago’s (TT) securing its first gold medal in an Olympic Games in 36 years, plus its winning of three bronze medals, were reasons for rejoicing, what is clear is that the nation’s athletes could have been even more successful had adequate public and private sector funding been available through the years for advanced training programmes and facilities. Keshorn Walcott, who won gold in the men’s javelin final, became the first TT athlete to win an Olympic Games medal since Hasely Crawford’s triumph in 1976 in the 100 metres at the Montreal Games in 1976. Additionally, Walcott is being hailed as a potential gold medallist in the 2016 Brazil Olympic Games. We wish to salute, unreservedly, all of our athletes who won medals at the London Games and to offer words of encouragement to all other TT athletes, who qualified for the finals of their respective events.
Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, reacting on Saturday night to Walcott’s gold winning performance would declare it was a priceless gift to the nation in the year of TT’s Golden Jubilee of Independence. Since the Games began, both public and private sector entities have published and/or broadcast advertisements in the print and electronic media hailing our athletes and wishing them all the best.
Although it may be argued that these advertisements are largely self-serving, no one should dismiss the impact that they have on viewing and reading audiences. Both the public and private sectors should seek to see the greater and clearly more positive advantage to athletes and potential athletes through the funding of modern training programmes and facilities.
Athletic success does not fall from the proverbial sky nor come from wishful thinking, but is as a result of constant and proper training and positive thinking. One Caribbean nation, Jamaica, has long recognised this. So has Cuba. Outside of the region, in the United States, for example, scholarships have been and are being awarded to promising athletes, and indeed several of our budding athletes through the years have been beneficiaries of these programmes.
While it may be difficult to quantify these programmes’ percentage of the Gross Domestic Product of the US and Jamaica and Cuba as well, nevertheless their benefits go far beyond actual expenditure. In the meantime, as the global economic downturn eases, the positive international exposure which will come as a result of high profile athletic success will better position TT’s non-energy goods and services in the international marketing place.
Government, in addition to direct funding, can be involved as well in indirect funding through the offering of tax incentives to both majority and minority owned public sector and wholly owned private sector companies in TT wishing to assist in the funding of training programmes and facilities referred to earlier.
Governments in TT have been somewhat tardy in funding athletic training. Admittedly, over the years there has been the construction of several stadiums. Understandably, massive training programmes will require a not inconsiderable degree of specially trained personnel, inasmuch as in the initial stages qualified TT coaches will not be available in adequate numbers.
There will be the need to hire foreign coaches on contract, both to train local athletes and train national swi-shing to be coaches as well as upgrade the efficiency of TT instructors. It is of critical import that the business community, whether in the public or private sector, do more outside of the glare of prominent international events like the Olympic Games and the World Cup to make a tangible and longer term investment in the development of sport in this country. It is an open secret that major sporting teams like Manchester United tour countries outside of Europe for their pre-season training. We should seek to take advantage of these opportunities to improve our standard of play. In the same breath we call on Government to state clearly who will fund its controversial Hoops of Life Programme and how will the programme be managed.