Lewis sees vaccinated sport in 2022
TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO Olympic Committee president Brian Lewis says he is looking forward to local sport getting back on its feet in 2022.
But the return-to-play initiative must be completed on the platform of widespread vaccination among stakeholders.
Nearly two years have been lost in the development of athletes - in key age-groups - in several sports due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
But Lewis, also the president of the Caribbean Association of National Olympic Committees (CANOC), believes the local sporting fraternity is ready to take a step forward.
“I believe that the worst is over. I think what we will see in 2022 is sport getting back up and running. Of course, it will have to be with Covid-19 counter-measures and a number of national federations will by 2022 have worked with their international federations and colleagues in other continents and regions who have been able to get sport up and running. The reality is that we will continue to have to live with Covid-19, “ Lewis said.
Lewis expected that sports administrators and the various national sporting organisations (NSOs) would become very proactive following the trauma of 2020 and 2021.
“Most have survived, they have lost a lot of colleagues and friends in sport and in general here in T&T. I think that resilience and fortitude that we have survived 2020, 2021, I think that it is now about moving forward. Most of the sporting organisations would have awakened from the slumber of the trauma and being overawed and overwhelmed by Covid-19, so it is time to move forward,” Lewis said.
He acknowledged that several young athletes would have become demotivated and some would have dropped out completely.
“However, I think it is up to the coaching and the NSOs to be innovative in terms of how they chart a course. They can’t afford to lose and write off a generation,’ Lewis said.
The TTOC president added that while the local sporting fraternity has struggled to return to play compared with some other countries and regions, the danger of comparison is juxtaposing your worst scenario with other countries’ best ones.
“So what we have to do in T&T is while looking and seeing how other countries and other regions and continents have been able to move forward, embrace some of the ideas, systems, processes and initiatives that have worked well and for those that haven’t worked well, you also learn from it from the perspective of what not to do,” Lewis said. “The enormous reality and challenge of the pandemic are that they are broad-based. It has challenged and devastated economies, public health systems, everything not just sports and in a number of countries where you have seen sport move forward, it has been hand in hand with the decisions made on a national and government basis in many countries.”
The richest leagues in the world have spent tens of millions in testing, creating a bio-secure bubble, contact-tracing, implementing rules and policies, masking, and social distancing.
“The reality is that safe and effective vaccines prevent severe illness and hospitalisation, vaccination has been critical in those leagues like the NBA, NHL, NFL, and the English Premier League,” Lewis said.
Lewis said the TTOC has gained practical experience in risk management of the virus through its participation at the Tokyo2020 Olympic Games and more recently at the Junior Pan American Games, via the TTOC’s Covid-19 liaison officer (CLO), Rheeza Grant. Those experiences will guide its operations going forward to other TTOC-sanctioned Games, like the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham next May, the Central American and Caribbean Games (CAC) and Pan American Games in 2023; and the Paris 2024 Olympics.
However he concluded by saying: “We in sport in T&T don’t operate in a vacuum. When you compare on a national level, as it relates to vaccination hesitancy and anti-vaxxers, that is going to be a major hurdle in the context of sport in T&T.
“Vaccination is a critical component of it, if you look at what is happening in global sport at the highest level. That has to be a sort of benchmark and framework of sport in T&T.”