The Hasely Crawford Stadium, the scene of the greatest moments in T&T's sporting history, was formally reopened in a ceremony held at the venue's car park in Mucurapo on Thursday. The upgrade of the venue, which started eight months ago, was originally scheduled to be completed in time for the inaugural Caribbean Games that was cancelled. However, with the venue constantly in use for events such as the National Track and Field Championships and World Cup qualifiers for the national football team, the upgrades suffered several delays. Some of the work done included new seating in the covered stand which sits 6,000, a redesigned VIP lounge and the erection of this country's largest national flag in the venue's car park.
Speaking at the ceremony, T&T's lone Olympic gold medallist and the venue's namesake Hasely Crawford humbly stated his appreciation for the work done.
"It gives me great pride to see that we are starting to respect this space," said Crawford. "I remember it was one week after the new minister took up his post in 2007, I wrote him a letter expressing concern about the poor condition of the stadium. "He told me at that point that he would take a note to cabinet to have the repairs done and from the work I have seen, he has delivered on that promise he made to me," said Crawford. He said a lack of respect from the public and poor management allowed the venue to reach the deplorable state it had. "I want to believe that it was because of poor management that stadium got to that state. But after having discussions with the officials, who will now manage the space, I feel this sacred space will be with us for the next 20 or 30 years," said Crawford.
Pointing to some of the events that took place at the venue, such as the crowning of boxer Leslie Stewart as a world champion in 1987, the Soca Warriors' successful 2006 World Cup qualifying campaign, and T&T crowning as joint world champions in netball with New Zealand and Australia in 1979, Minister of Sport and Youth Affairs Gary Hunt said his ministry was working to make the venue significant in this nation's history. "This is the location where the nation is always seen at its best. This is where the citizens of T&T come together as one to celebrate our tributes as a people. We must be committed to making this spot a symbol of national pride," said Hunt.
He said the life of the stadium namesake should serve as motivation for the national youth. "It was with sheer determination and hard work that Hasely Crawford rose from humble beginnings to become the fastest man in the world 33 years ago. We must tell this story to constantly remind our youth of the possibilities that exist with hard work," said Hunt. The Jean Pierre Complex, where eight multiple international standard outdoor courts were installed, also had work done. Crawford and Minister Hunt rose the national flag, which is 60 metres long and 36 metres wide, during the ceremony which was attended by Mayor of Port-of-Spain Murchison Brown along with several other representatives from various national sporting bodies.