Athlete welfare and preparation is a key priority of the ten or more Olympic gold medals by the year 2024 vision (#10G24). In this respect, access to Housing Development Corporation (HDC) houses is an idea that can be advanced under an Elite Athlete Housing Assistance Programme. Representing T&T at the Olympic and World level is national duty and service. It is a declaration that should be meaningful with tangible measures put in place to support such a declaration.
HDC houses for national sportsmen and women with a priority on those who have represented T&T at Olympic and World level in both team and individual sports is in the opinion of the writer a powerful statement of intent that we are serious about supporting our athletes in their quest for excellence.
There are national athletes who have served this country with distinction for five years or more who need assistance to obtain HDC housing.
Just as there is a priority given to members of the national security service, it is proposed that a similar policy be implemented for national sports men and women who have given sustained and meritorious service.
Just as is done with the Elite Athlete Assistance Programme, the national sport organisations and the T&T Olympic Committee (TTOC) are well positioned to clarify, confirm and recommend those athletes in both team and individual sports that merit favourable consideration under the proposed Elite/High Performance Athlete Housing Assistance Programme.
My one caveat is that the criteria be transparent, fair and just and that it not be based on affiliation to any political party. Athletes, sportsmen and women, should not have to hold any particular party card or declared support.
Let me make it abundantly clear that having benefited from an expedited distribution, the recipient (athlete) must honour their mortgage obligations. At a much elevated level of achievement —an Olympic or World championship gold medal—the precedent has developed where a gift of appropriate housing may be given.
The idea of houses for national athletes, sportsmen and women is simple, athletes who dedicate years of their productive life to representing their country at Olympic and World level sport make tremendous sacrifices in respect of their careers, families, income etc.
Their choice to dedicate themselves to national duty and service through sport ostensibly place them at a significant social and economic disadvantage.
Currently, the burden is a de-motivating one for athletes who aspire to Olympic and World level.
Dedication to national duty and service through sport must no longer place our athletes at a disadvantage and compromise their constitutional and human right to the dignity of a roof over their heads.
Other issues impacting sport include:
• High crime and traffic. Both have made participating in sport and physical activity difficult. There is a pressing need to decentralize sport to the respective communities.
• There are national sport organisations dependent on funding from the Ministry of Sport and the Sport Company of T&T that haven't met their monthly salary obligation to their office staff.
• Those involved in sport are concerned about the future of this country and their family. The young people are concerned about well-paying jobs, first world infrastructural development which will ensure them and their families a high quality of life.
Young people involved in sports aren’t any different. They have the additional worry about their future in sport and the future of sport in the country. The indifference shown to the needs and concerns of sportsmen and women is a demeaning experience that brings into question the sincerity of utterances that sport is important.
Action matters more than talk.