‘Don’t blame us for the T&T Grand Games cancellation.” So said Peter Samuels, public relations officer (PRO) of the National Association of Athletic Administration (NAAA).
His response came following widespread disappointment by athletes and coaches, trainers, family members and supporters when it was revealed by T&T Grand Games Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Regina John that the international meet carded for this weekend was cancelled.
Samuels made it clear his administration had nothing to do with the organisation of the event. “We sanctioned it, that’s all.” He added: “As with any private citizen or organisation that wants to put on a meet, we sanctioned it. In fact, we supported the games fully as we felt it would have helped T&T athletes with their preparation ahead of the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro in Brazil.”
Up to yesterday Samuel said his administration was still not officially informed of the cancellation and called on meet organisers to offer a proper explanation.
“We have not been officially informed of the cancellation of the event nor the reasons leadings to it. However, based on what is currently in the public domain, it would appear that, at a minimum, a proper explanation is required from the organisers. As much as one may wish to sympathise with them for the challenges they encountered and the unfortunate turn of events, there is no doubt that the last minute cancellation has adversely affected the athletes who were expecting to participate and the fans that were looking forward to the event,” Samuels explained.
He added; “It must also be recognised that significant damage has been done to the sport of athletics and to our country’s brand, given the title of the event, the extensive promotions done and the poor handling of the cancellation.”
Among those hard-hit by the cancellation was T&T’s quadruple Olympic medallist Ato Boldon who has been here preparing for the Games with his protege Khalifa St Fort.
A fuming Boldon lashed out at organisers, labelling them as incompetent. He said; “After all the Grand Games hype and after all the ads have gone out and all the negotiations back and forth, so many people were planning their season and now that it’s May, a critical month, expecting to go down to Trinidad this week to have a meet, comes word that the meet has been cancelled.”
Also expected to face competition were sprinters Michelle-Lee Ahye, Keston Bledman, Lalonde Gordon, Deon Lendore, hurdlers Jehue Gordon and Mikel Thomas, shot puter Cleopatra Borel and Olympic gold medallist Keshorn Walcott.
It is understood that without the support of the Ministry of Sports and Youth Affairs, organisers did not get the support it had hoped for, as only 44 tickets were sold for the games.
The area that received the most support was a planned after party event that is expected to feature Jamaican Dance Hall artiste Tommy Lee. In a newspaper report, John promised that athletes who are here on the invitation of her organisation will be fully compensated.
When the Guardian contacted John yesterday, she said she was in a meeting and suggested the Guardian called her later. However, despite several efforts, calls to her cell phone went unanswered.