TTOC’s 16th Annual awards ceremony at Cascadia Hotel December 29, 2009
As a young person growing up in T&T I always found that national pride, unity and a love for country eluded many of us as a people. I always envied the way the Jamaicans defended their country and their heritage, similarly the Bajans and many of the other smaller islands.
It was this that drove my strong belief and passion for delivering the Caribbean Games to Trinidad & Tobago.
I believed that once the Games started it would engender a spirit of National Pride in all those connected with the Games. Athletes, Officials, Volunteers, Spectators and Govt. officials Preparing for Caribbean Games taught us a lot of valuable lessons the main one being that Sport still has a lot of work to do before it is accepted as an integral part in the development of young people in Trinidad & Tobago.
Why you ask? For the next 5 minutes I will attempt to provide you with a rationale for such a statement.
Historically, the only time that I have seen T&T as a nation exhibit National Pride and Unity was in conjunction with a sporting accomplishment.
1976 Olympic Games in Montreal Hasley Crawford won the Gold medal in the 100 yard dash. For a minimum level of investment in one athlete, the twin island Republic of T&T got Global publicity that would have been impossible to plan and much less pay for. The population came out in their thousands to see Hasley on his return to TT and his performance motivated then and continues to motivate young people now to strive for excellence in whatever they do.
At that time, many promises were made about ensuring the development of Sport as the Hasely’s success was shrouded by a euphoria that everybody wanted to replicate.
The Strike Squad. Who could forget that.
Nov. 19th 1989 is etched in the minds and hearts of all TT.
The images of RED and the massive show of national pride was second to none.
Our soccer team made us feel that we could conquer the world.
1980 – 1989 West Indies played 83 test matches. They won 44 lost 8 and drew 31.
Even though we celebrated their successes as a region nothing impacted more on TT than when Brian Lara broke the World Record for the largest score in a Test Innings in 1994.
375 against England in Antigua.
He turned the cricketing world on its head but more than that Trinbagonians took to the streets honking horns waving flags etc. There was a massive show of pride and unity. Everybody came out at Woodford Square to catch a glimpse of the Prince of Port of Spain. A title that has remained with him to date.
1989 to 2001 Dwight Yorke played for Aston Villa and Manchester United.
1996 to 2004 Ato Boldon was a four-time Olympic medal winner. Only 2 other men in history, Frankie Fredericks and Carl Lewis, have won as many Olympic individual event sprint medals. There are certain iconic moments in one’s life that we remember everything about that moment. Ato’s run in Atlanta and Hasely’s run in Montreal.
During the 90’s Ato Boldon, Brian Lara and Dwight Yorke as individuals, did more to promote T&T than anything else during that time, at a minimal cost to the country and motivated a significant number of young people to emulate their efforts in a positive manner.
Travelling during that time anywhere in the world you were identified as coming from the country with the above men.
2004 George Bovell won the first Olympic Medal in swimming. Everybody wanted to put a congratulatory advertisement. For weeks after the Olympics George was sought after for photo ops speeches etc.
2006 Soca Warriors qualified for the World Cup in Germany. Once again people took to the streets and partied all night to celebrate this success. It was the single largest sporting event supported by corporate T&T.
The thing that has stood out in my mind was the first game against Sweden when we sang the National Anthem in the stadium. 12000 Trinbagonians sang proud and at the end tears were flowing from all our eyes. This campaign was the single largest show of national pride and unity in T&T’s history. The effect on our young people was staggering.
2008 Richard Thompson and the 4X100m Men’s Relay team won 2 silver medals at the Beijing Olympics that once again brought people into the streets. Celebrations went on for weeks after returning home. Again this has had a significant impact on our youn
g people and its effects will be felt and seen in our performances in Track & Field over the next decade.
2009 had tremendous performances from Renny Quow and Jose-Ann Lucas both of whom medalled at the IAAF World Championships in Berlin. Once again everyone was glued to their TVs. Trinidad & Tobago was once again applauded on Global TV.
Our most recent success came from our T&T Cricket Team at the Airtel T20 Championship in India where we finished 2nd. The T&T Team was the toast of India, over 1 billion People.
Over 30M people watched each game with a staggering 100M viewing the final live and half a billion people seeing it after as a packaged item. Once again T&T was being viewed and applauded on the World stage through Sport.
No planned PR effort would be able to replicate this level of global awareness for a country, without spending 100s of millions of dollars and even then we could not guarantee the outcome.
What does this all mean? One thing is for sure. We owe them all an immeasurable debt of gratitude for what they have contributed to this nation and its International Profile.
But what of their Legacy? Just Memories? Or is there a real long lasting legacy? There is no cost benefit analysis that can be done on this! We are talking about young people who understood the values of passion, commitment, dedication, and pride, all of the Olympic ideals, while at the same time flying our flag high.
After all these successes, in the midst of the euphoria many promises were made on developing and establishing a sustainable pathway for Sport. But the execution of those plans have been woefully inadequate and ineffective to say the least.
But Why?? We cannot dismiss the fact that the GOTT has spent millions on sport over the last 2 decades.
The Public has clearly demonstrated its support whenever we have sporting successes and there is a fervent desire that we continue to produce sporting excellence. This is clearly articulated throughout the media by Govt officials sporting aficionados, arm chair critics etc. We are very critical of our failures in sport and so we should be else how are we to change.
In short Trinbagonians want to be successful at all sport all of the time because we like that feeling that says “we are special”.
But the irony is that to be successful in sport we must first develop a sporting mentality, a passion for sport, not as a spectator but as a participant.
In order to develop a sporting mentality we would need to have a proper physical education system implemented in ALL schools both Primary and Secondary that allows for participation by all kids during the day and not after school.
It must be mandatory!
In order to develop and execute a proper physical education system in schools, we must first develop an appreciation for the importance of physical education and recreation in early childhood development. This is not solely the responsibility of the school system, Parents have a major responsibility here. Parents need to educate themselves on the learning pathway of a child in order to recognize the importance that physical activity plays in their development.
The GOTT also needs to ensure that there is congruence in the programs and policies that govern the Ministries of Sport, Education, Social & Community Development and Health.
ALL of the above is sadly lacking! ALL four ministries are interdependent. None will be successful without the success of the other.
And therein lays the problem. The understanding of what is necessary for success.
If you look honestly at these ministries, ALL are having significant challenges. The problem is that there is always serious fallout whenever they fail.
Nobody can deny that we are a Country in Social Crisis! Once again I wish to urge the powers that be, Parents, Communities, Leaders and most of all the GOTT to rethink their strategies for development. To move to strategies that are more all encompassing and that integrate throughout all aspects of society.
Finally I will end by reading read an excerpt from an editorial:
“Ladies and Gentlemen, if we do not invest seriously in the development of the mind body and spirit of our youth, they will never see the National Pride in our Flag, whether it costs 2$ or 2M$, and the words together we aspire, together we achieve will be just words of a rhetorical statement that adorn a pretty logo on a Blazer!”