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May 31, 2020

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This country’s sports tourism ambitions have been dealt a serious blow due to the non-completion of major sports facilities costing the treasury millions in projected revenue says Sports Minister Darryl Smith.

While foreign states and international sporting organisations were still enquiring about the possibility of having access to the Brian Lara Stadium, National Cycling Velodrome, the George Bovell Aquatic Centre and National Tennis Centre and even the Dwight Yorke Stadium in Tobago, post September 7, for their pre-Rio, Brazil 2016 Olympic preparation, the minister lamented in a T&T Guardian interview, they all needed work.

The Dwight Yorke Stadium, which was by no means new, however, was in need of remedial work.

Millions in revenue estimated by the former People’s Partnership Government from foreign countries desirous of setting up camps on local soil, en route to the Rio 2016 Olympic in Brazil, had been lost as once interested parties have redirected their business elsewhere, leading up to the Games.

“…inherited problem! That should have been thought out and planned before. Again, (it’s) only a month plus since we have been there (in government).

There is nothing that we could do. We are trying our best to ensure that they are completed, but more importantly, that the maintenance contracts, the tendering process, is put in place.

Again, that was poor management from the former administration. They know Olympics was coming up,” he said. Smith added, “They should have speeded up things, but instead they pushed certain things for elections gimmick: cutting of ribbons in certain places and so on, when they should have focused and realised that whoever was in government, the people of T&T would have benefitted with regards to utilising these arenas. We talk about sport tourism.

A lot of countries and sports organisation have asked about them, but they are not completed. This is where the focus should have been.”     

With respect to the Brian Lara Stadium in Tarouba, Smith said he planned to meet with Housing Minister Marlene Mc Donald and Noel Garcia, chairman of the Urban Development Company Limited (Udecott) to explore ways to cease the hemorrhaging of tax-payers funds and ultimately save the project.

He said the Keith Rowley-led administration had to ensure that no more tax-payer funds were wasted and as a consequence something positive had to happen.

“At this point I can’t comment because I have never seen it. It’s under Udecott. The ministry of sport has no drawings, no plans. So we have to have that meeting and we do a formal (site) visit.

We will let the public know what we plan to do with it. I am the most optimistic person that you’ll meet and I’m really hoping that everything was done with good intentions.

At the end of the day, I think we really wanted cricket to be at played there at the highest level, so it may be that they (the previous government) would have had some issue,” said Smith.

He continued, “Five years passed and nothing was done. Whether it was political or not, I don’t know what were their plans. Just like a number of other projects throughout T&T: the Diego Martin Northern Grounds, Mahaica Oval (Point Fortin), and a number of other projects, even National Academy for the Performing Arts (NAPA). Look at NAPA? All of a sudden it’s shut down because of no maintenance.

That’s for another place, another debate. All I know is the Brian Lara Stadium will be looked at and the best decision will be made for the tax payers of T&T.”

Whatever the challenges were associated with those projects they were all inherited, he said, and went onto slam the Kamla Persad-Bissessar-led administration over its tardiness.

Any layman, said Smith, would have known when constructing structures such as those mentioned, maintenance contracts had to be put into effect.

“That wasn’t put in place. So right now those (facilities) are almost completed: 86, 95, 98 per cent completed and there is no maintenance contract.

There is no way we could have a handing over process without a proper tendering process with regards to who is going to maintain it, because by the time you get that handing over, the clock start ticking.

Who is going to be maintaining it? Who is going to be ensuring that the track is okay, the air conditioning is working, the lights are working and so on. So we now moving feverishly trying to put a tendering process in place to take care of the national centres maintained,” said the minister.
He continued, “We have the Olympics around the corner.

We want to make sure that the Olympic prospects would be able to use the cycling track, the swimming pool and so on, but they have to be completed. They haven’t been handed over as yet.

But being proactive as I am and the ministry is we are trying quickly to get the maintenance contracts so when that day comes, we could have it opened right away.”

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