Getting ready for the Rio Olympic Games from August 5-21 next year, is more complicated than it was during the build up to previous Games. The general loss of confidence, in where T&T may be economical, are playing on the minds of most people actively involved in the Olympic preparation.
Despite this, the excitement is building. It is the first ever Games to be held in South America. In a very real sense, the final count down has begun and at all levels, the focus is on making it a success.
Reports from Brazil suggest that the population is positive. Crowd support for the test events seems high. A lot is going on. Minds are focused. Here at home, our Olympic hopefuls are hard at it, training as intensely as they can. The dreams of not just qualifying but becoming Olympic champions, are real.
Sometimes our athletes, especially those who are striving for the pinnacle of Olympic glory, feel that fans here take their efforts for granted. Now that the country is coming to the realisation that the oil revenue is in the bust part of the cycle, there is a feeling that sport is about to face its darkest days.
The mood is pessimistic. It’s an unfortunate situation because it would seem that as a country, we did not learn from previous oil booms and bust cycles. In the short term, the near total dependency on state funding will prove an albatross around the necks of most sporting organisations.
On top of the dire economic predictions, sport has to face the breakdown of trust. Scandal after scandal leaves sport vulnerable and its values are under attack from both outside and within. Allegations of wrong doing in one form or another is becoming the norm. It is certainly not a pretty picture.
In fact one can sense the perfect storm—plunging oil prices and sporting scandals. The good news is that there are many individuals and organisations committed to restoring sport’s positive image.
There is a responsibility on all sport organisations, leaders and managers who understand that dedicated athletes and participants deserve better.
For all the hard times that may be predicted, sport is facing an opportunity to clean up its act.
The Olympic Committee is leading the way by advocating for among other things—root and canal and wholesale governance reform. It will take a shift in leadership culture and throwing out archaic systems and practices as well as greater transparency and accountability.
Sport in T&T should collectively sieze the opportunity to create a new vision, a new mentality since old governance structures and thinking can’t cope with the modern challenges. Sporting bodies have to appeal to the youths and attract new fans.
There are too many athletes, youth and young people who find solace in sport to simply pack it in. Much can be said for sport. But the overwhelming negativity makes finding solutions seem very far away.
• Brian Lewis is president of the T&T Olympic Committee. The views expressed here are not those of the TTOC.