Three-time Olympic gold medallist Usian Bolt was the headline act at the 34th Hampton International Games last year. However, with funding from the government and corporate T&T not forthcoming as in the past, Rawle Rapheal, president of the Hampton Athletic Club, has branded the 35th edition of the Games scheduled to begin tomorrow at Hasely Crawford Stadium, mucurapo, as a financial nightmare.
Rapheal made the comments while speaking at a media briefing for the event at City Hall on Knox Street, Port of Sport, yesterday. "Since the inception of the Games we have been able to attract the world's best athletes to T&T. Last year we had Usian Bolt running in the 100 metres, just a week after breaking the world record. This year, however, because of the lack of funds we have not been able to attract any super athletes like Bolt to the meet," said Rapheal.
With the usual budget for the Games being in the region of $5m, Rapheal revealed that the organisation had received nowhere near this sum. "We have received very little this year compared to last year. To host the type of Games with athletes like Tyson Gay for example it would cost $5m because these athletes command an appearance fee of US $60,000 each. Thats why this year we can't attract anyone," said Rapheal.
Despite the lack of major foreign athletes, Rapheal was still optimistic that this weekends Games will be a success. Pointing to an appearance from national men's 400m champion Renny Quow and Jamaican runners Oral Thompson and 800m champion Aldwyn Sappleton, Rapheal urged local athletics fans to come out and support the event. "I feel sure that the athletes that we have attracted will put on a great show because many of them will want to make the qualifying standards for the World Championships in August."
Rapheal also revealed that several local athletes have waived their appearance fee to participate in the this weekend's meet. "So of our local runners like Renny Quow, Fana Ashby and Ayanna Hutchinson all waiving their appearance fees to take part in this meet. They are preparing for the World Championships also so the competition would be good for them. I feel this will also attract a big crowd because the public would have another chance to see them race," said Raphael.
Also expected to take to the track this weekend are national 800m and 1500m champion Garvyn Nero, discus thrower Quincy Wilson and national men's 400m hurdles champion Jehue Gordon. They are all preparing for the Pan American Junior Track and Field Championships scheduled to take place at Hasely Crawford Stadium from July 31 to August 1.