Seventy-five (75) years is a long time to be in existence and on Sunday, the T&T Olympic Committee (TTOC) will start the celebration of the momentous occasion by participating on the final day of the T&T International Marathon (TTIM), as a means to raise funds for this country's athletes.
Even with the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, TTOC president Brian Lewis and his team are determined not to let the virus ruin the commemoration of the milestone after it forced the TTIM committee, chaired by Diane Henderson, to rethink the staging of the event by hosting a virtual marathon to provide participants with four distances to challenge themselves. The event offers all runners a 5K, a half marathon of 13.1 miles, the full marathon (26.2 miles) and the Ultra Challenge of 35 miles and they have from January 1 - 24 to complete their event of choice.
"This is the seventh time we are participating in the T&T International Marathon. We will be doing the marathon walk on the traditional T&T marathon day on the last Sunday in January so we will be doing it on January 24 which is this Sunday," said Lewis, who also touched on the birth of the local organization.
Lewis pointed that: "The TTOC was established in 1946 to participate firstly in the Central American and Caribbean Games which was Barranquilla, Colombia that year in 1946. The Games records would show, was held between March 5 to March 25, 1946, so it's obvious, even though we researched and tried to locate the exact date of the establishment of the TTOC which at that time was called a working committee the T&T Olympic Association, we are certain that it had to be between January and March 5, 1946."
He further stated that: "So, it's our birthday and we felt, in terms of the 75th birthday, that it would form the theme for all events and all the activities, the Olympic committee would do in this year.
"We felt it was really important to continue, notwithstanding the challenges of COVID-19, to do the marathon walk which shall become one of the real important awareness and fund-raising motivation for the TeamTTO #10golds24 Athlete Welfare and Preparation Fund."
Lewis, a former rugby player added: "The incredible uncertainty surrounding the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games now rescheduled to July 23 to August 8 this year and the reality, notwithstanding the unpredictability and the uncertainty now with the new variant COVID-19 creating significant challenges, public health etc, the reality that our athletes who have already qualified and those who aspire to qualify, have to continue training and preparing and it is very important for us to continue to support them."
The committee has opted to begin at the traditional start point in St Mary's Junction, Freeport at 2 am and end 26.2 miles later at Queens Park Savannah opposite White Hall in Port-of-Spain.
Lewis remains encouraged by the support of the public and individuals who want to support the TeamTTO #10golds24 Athlete Welfare and Preparation Fund. Anyone can make a donation at the Scotiabank account 171188 or at Olympic House 121 Abercromby Street in Port-of-Spain.
The special edition marathon walk 2021 T-shirts will acknowledge the 75th anniversary of the establishment of the TTOC.
He said: "Last year, we had 100 people participating in the marathon in support of the marathon walk and the Athlete Welfare and Preparation Fund but of course this year because of COVID-19 restrictions and protocols and guidelines we will have to accord with it so we will be putting the necessary procedure in place to ensure that our participation in the TTIM using it as an opportunity to do the marathon walk fundraiser."
According to Lewis: "We will be putting in place all the procedures required in terms of we have to wear our mask, maintain a certain distance, the support team will have gloves. We will make every effort to make sure that the participation of Team TTO in the marathon and the marathon walk this year will be in accord with the COVID-19 guidelines with an emphasis on safety but it important, our athletes need the support, COVID-19 or no COVID-19.
"And continue to focus on the athletes and their preparation for Toyko 2020 which remains at this time schedule for July 2021."