Success costs a lot. When you read of the investment made by UK Sport in their programmes, you understand that there are people who recognise how important sport is. Even with their country under financial pressure, Great Britain has not cut spending for sport. It is no different in the US. They have struggled against Jamaica in the prestigious sprint events at the Olympics and World Championships. There is nothing that hurts major world powers than to have so-called small countries overwhelm them in sport. England have invested £400 million over four years, as well as established a professional training staff in all areas of sport. There has been a determined effort to invest in the youths and still allow the experienced performers to remain on board. It is an investment that will be measured, not only in medals, but also on how much they can inspire a nation during the current Olympic Games. This is a great failing for us in T&T. What is inspiring about the British is the role which several of their former great sporting personalties are playing in their efforts to be on top. Whether they were selected or volunteered, the fact that they are involved, has added an air of importance and trust. The people have bought into this package and are giving it their backing.
In terms of supporting our sport, T&T has a lot to learn. A simple fact: The Jamaicans have over 25 journalists accredited for the Games. Only five journalists from T&T were given accreditation. I have been told by the Jamaican journalists that their Olympic Committee demanded and stood up for their journalists. Our Olympic bosses simply accepted what was pushed down their throats. Jamaica is probably the only Caribbean country which takes sport seriously. When persons are found guilty of drug-related activities, they are totally ostrasised. Their media is not only interested in singing the praises, but are often very critical and outspoken, because that is what the people expect of them. Their athletes understand to whom much is given, much is expected. Therefore, they ensure they give of their best at all times. It is not only about financial success, but family; country and pride are paramount. Our athletes are very much the same. They are professional and dedicated, and I would say greatly discipline. Many times, they have to find their own funds as the so called “elite” system in T&T does not work efficiently. I have been told there is no question of Jamaican athletes not receiving support. That would be major news. Their government could lose an election based on that. It must be somewhat ironic that several of T&T’s administrators are already in London, lapping up the atmosphere, even though they have not done much for our athletes.
UK Sport has produced a long term plan and broken it down into a PDCA. (Plan, Do, Check and Action procedure), in accordance with major international meetings. I understand several countries in the Caribbean have sent their administrators to understand the system. When the Sports Company of T&T was established over six years ago, that was one of the aims of the then Sports Minister. But in 2012, the majority of the country is still in the dark as to the current functions of this organisation. UK Sport is responsible for investing around £100 million each year—from both the National Lottery and the Exchequer—in high performance sport. This money is now supplemented by the income from a private sponsorship scheme “Team 2012.” Based in London, UK Sport employs around 90 staff and is overseen by the UK Sport Board, comprising home country representatives and independent members, which meet every two months.
Using a “No Compromise” philosophy which targets investment at those most likely to deliver medals at Olympic and Paralympic level, UK Sport works with each sport to provide the best possible support for athletes, providing everything they need from world-class coaches to cutting edge research and innovation, talent identification and performance lifestyle support.
There are lessons to be learnt from UK Sport. A lot of the funding comes through the monies made from their lottery system. In this country, I once tried to find out how much funding from the lottery was placed in the Sports and Culture Fund. There was never a good answer to this. It is a big secret. I endorse the idea of “No Compromise,” which gives off a positive but resonating note, that one must not compromise integrity, character, dedication, discipline. To compromise is to concede defeat. If we can give our athletes half of the support the British are getting, we would be well off. The Jamaican athletes trust their administration because they understand the athletes have the support of the people and government. Can we truthfully say, the same for T&T? What we will witness in London is our professionals giving of their best because they love T&T. We have waited far too long to be decisive. It is time to change or be left behind.