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Press officer needed at TTOC

Wednesday, August 6, 2014
Dancing Brave
T&T’s swimmer George Bovell after competing in the 50m freestyle semifinals at the Commonwealth Games on July 28. Bovell qualified for the final where he placed fifth in 22.31 seconds. Photo: Mark Davidson

The Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, Scotland, is over but the resulting eight medals, while much appreciated, should not be the only area of introspection for those interested in progressing our sport.

It is obvious, that the T&T contingent could have done better and achieved more medals, if George Bovell III had produced a medal as expected. He and his team will have to examine his future in light of the fact, that without any European swimmers or American swimmers, he was only able to achieve fifth place in his preferred final, and therefore serious doubts must be raised on his credible chances in 2016 in Brazil.

Perhaps though, this is where we need to start, with questions being raised to the T&T Olympic Committee (TTOC), on both the selection process going forward for international events, and also team guidelines before any major event.

There must exist rules of participation, rules of eligibility and generally guidance rules for events which must be adhered to, otherwise, there will be anarchy and problems.

Bovell qualified for the 100 metres backstroke final, after entering the event of his own free will, but while he had the seventh fastest time heading into the final and did not look like he would medal, he opted to not swim the final.

Clearly it was not injury, as he swam the following day in his pet event the 50m freestyle and it was reported that his decision was based on him, wanting to not exert himself and be at his best for the 50m freestyle. It was a report that he and his team never refuted.

My problem is that, how can someone qualify for a final at a major meeting and drop out and the governing body, the TTOC has no say or no opinion. So is it that they are afraid of Bovell? And if so, that is absolute rubbish and speaks volumes on their management style.

Please do not tell me also that this has been done before by him and therefore it is acceptable, if that be the case, then every team member can behave similarly, wake up one morning and decide not to race or swim or play a final because they do not want to, and we all must accept it gracefully with a big broad smile and move on. Who paid for their training? Who paid for their support? Who ensured that the Olympic body would sponsor their Games? In particular, Bovell is obtaining elite funding from this country and this is not money to be easily ignored, as it is estimated at around $250,000 a year at least.

But it is the principle of the matter and the way, it was done, with callous disregard for the people of T&T, who were all happy to watch one of our own in a first final, it meant a lot. It was not surprising to listen to some of the dismaying comments from the public on Bovell’s errant choice, as it was one of disgust, dissatisfaction and left a sour taste. In fact, sadly, the population turned against him, but he has himself to blame for this.

As for the TTOC, they need to put their house in order in ensuring that the information from the camp is relayed properly. There is an urgent need for the TTOC to hire a working professional press officer or Press attache, similar to how it works all over the world. In the past, Brian Lewis used to do this job himself tirelessly but now that he is president and the Olympic framework is growing, a working full-time journalist should be hired.

This would enhance the TTOC’s image and ensure that all the media houses in this country could direct their enquiries to one constant reliable source. While there may be some that would be upset with this, the TTOC needs to stand alone and be decisive. New leadership may not always mean a change in direction but as we as a sporting world evolve, the price for lack of timely information is failure and abuse.

Lewis needs to immediately hire a press officer, so that our Olympic and related teams in the future can have their views aired properly. This sort of media coverage would not only assist our athletes in getting their opinions out on one platform but would ensure consistency and trust.

Who knows if this existed, then Bovell would not have received the amount of abuse he has had to since his withdrawal from the swimming final. Maybe anyway?

However, it is clear, that policy needs to be established with set guidelines on entering and participating in events, this is not only about the athletes pride in finishing unplaced in a final, but it must be about the country and the need to ensure that our name is not tarnished as quitters or cowards who do not like to lose or be defeated.

As to the selection policy, questions continue to be asked about the idea to use a slow Zwede Hewitt (split of 45.9) to run the anchor leg in the 4x400m relay team which won a bronze medal when gold seemed theirs for the taking.

Of concern will also be the number of injuries we continue to suffer before events, even though the athletes are supposed to have been tested before and their fitness assured this however is not the case. And the sad part is that this is not the first time we have witnessed this.

There are several young journalists, who would be interested in this job, and with the Olympics in 2016 a mere two years away, the TTOC must act now in order to be ready to deliver. This would be a great sign of progressiveness and establish the TTOC as an organisation well ahead of the others.

So let us hope the lessons from the Commonwealth Games will not only be from the field of play but also from the offices and those involved in administration of the sports that the need for proper and trustworthy communication must be first and foremost in the minds of those that want sports to succeed in this country.


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