May 21st, 2012
In Capitalism in Crisis, published in the year 2000, Fidel Castro argued that those countries that were colonies yesterday and are still today enduring the backwardness of poverty and underdevelopment, have only one asset that can guarantee the defence of legitimate aspirations and that is unity.
He also asserted that we are all passengers on the same vessel: “This planet where we all live but noted that some passengers on the vessel are travelling in luxurious conditions while the majority are in far different conditions.” Local sport is a former colony on the vessel known as T&T and is in crisis as it endures backwardness, underdevelopment and a lack of unity. I long ago gave up hope that there was light at the end of the dark tunnel for sport in T&T and decided in my own mind that for sport to thrive it had to make its own light.
In 1983, a boyhood friend Ramesh Maharaj, at the time the public relations officer of the T&T Bodybuilding Federation (TTBBF) asked me to help out as his assistant. It was a baptism of fire and a reality check. Rejection and slammed doors were just an illusion. Fast forward to May 2012. Little has changed since then or I should say not much has changed. Sport is still undervalued, misunderstood, abused and used. That’s the reality. The only way forward is for local sport to accept it has to create and own its future. Neither government nor business person can do it. They will always have their own priorities. Sport has never been given a space at the economic or trade table—the Caribbean Investor Forum got under way yesterday at the Hilton Hotel and sport is nowhere close—there are plenary sessions on agri-business, creative industries, fashion value chain and entertainment. No sessions on the economic potential of sport and the sport value chain. InvestTT, the Ministry of Trade, the Minister of Sport, his Ministry or Sport Company are not at fault. It is the responsibility of the National Sports Organisations (NSOs) and the T&T Olympic Committee (TTOC). It is for local sport leaders to chart the way forward and to create the future, not the Minister, his Ministry or Sport Company—they are facilitators. Two years ago, the TTOC pioneered a sport marketing workshop. The intention was for the event to become an annual full-blown Olympic sport marketing conference. That it has not happened is for another column.
T&T as a society has lost its sense of shared citizenship. The cleavages get wider and wider daily. Lost in the rat race are those who remain engaged in the reality of everyday life. Sport represents a facet of everyday reality but sadly the engagement that is on offer is not recognised or appreciated. Begging and crying and going on bended knees is an exercise in futility. For local sport to shape its destiny, the start point must be a consensus on the national policy framework for the sustainable development of sport within which objectives can be set and evaluated. A clear understanding about the role of the different stakeholders and an acceptance that developing excellence has costs. Recognition of physical education within the education system and the role of private sector and the media as a partner in sport. Some are very happy talking only about micro issues and not about the range of issues that have a bearing on sustainability. The economic and social potential of sport is being ignored. In plain language there is a lack of unity of thought and purpose. Better days will never come for T&T sport if we sit, wish and wait.