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Honours coming for other T&T Olympians
The Government has apologised for any impression created by the fact that other members of the T&T Olympic team were not honoured at Monday’s Piarco homecoming celebration for gold medallist Keshorn Walcott, says Communication Minister Jamal Mohammed. He added: “We do apologise if the impression was created that we had forgotten or ignored the other Olympic athletes.
“Monday’s celebration at Piarco Airport was specially in honour of the man who won the gold medal, Keshorn Walcott. Monday was his day, since he touched down in T&T after winning the gold medal. “The other athletes will be duly recognised at the appropriate time. It is not as though they were forgotten or left out, far from that, and if that impression was created in any quarter, I duly apologise for it.”
The T&T Olympic Committee, however, publicly apologised on Wednesday to the four returning athletes who were not acknowledged at the welcoming ceremony for the returning Olympians at the Piarco International Airport on Monday. Cyclist Njisane Phillip, sprinters Michelle-Lee Ahye and Reyane Thomas, runner Machel Cedeno and hurdler Mikel Thomas arrived at Piarco at the same time on Monday.
But only Walcott and Phillip were publicly recognised and presented to the public from the balcony of the airport’s atrium. TTOC general secretary Brian Lewis was reported in yesterday’s T&T Guardian as describing the omission as “unfortunate and disappointing.” Saying the TTOC accepted full responsibility, Lewis said it was because of problems in communication at the airport that only Walcott and Phillip were presented to the huge crowd.
Asked when the other athletes would be recognised and in what way, Mohammed could not give an exact date but said arrangements were being worked out. Arts and Multiculturalism Minister Lincoln Douglas said some of the T&T team’s track and field athletes had not returned home on Monday but had gone to another athletic meeting overseas.
He also said Government’s statements at Monday’s airport celebration had indicated all the athletes on T&T’s Olympic team would be honoured at another occasion. Sports Minister Anil Roberts did not reply to cellphone calls. Former PNM Sports Minister Gary Hunt was critical of the fact that the other team members appeared to have been left out of Monday’s Piarco agenda.
Hunt said: “This PP Government is simply reactionary and not given to proper planning. Of course the perception would arise in the public domain that other members of the team were slighted if they had not been part of the celebration programme at the airport!
“In 2008 when T&T’s Olympic team, including track and field sprinter Richard Thompson and swimmer George Bovell, returned from that year’s Olympics, the Manning administration honoured all of the returning athletes—not one or two—but all. “Nor did we as a government try to piggyback on the glory of the athletes when they returned, as this administration did with Keshorn Walcott, unfortunately.”
Hunt added: “The PP administration has tried in every way to benefit in some way from the shining glory of young Walcott and in seeking to cash in on the adulation from the crowds who thronged around him recently. But it’s the T&T athletes, including Keshorn, and their coaches, who did T&T proud.”
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