Big things in the works

Great things are in store for sports in Barbados in the coming year, says Minister of Sport Stephen Lashley.

Speaking today in an interview with Barbados TODAY, Lashley stated that for the financial year 2012/2013 Government, through the National Sports Council, would provide special grants to a number of associations which would be participating in various regional and international competitions.†These include the Barbados Cycling Union, the Barbados Darts Association, the Barbados Amateur Swimming Association, the Barbados Volleyball Association, the Barbados Netball Association and the Barbados Amateur Athletic Association.†

He also revealed that in the new financial year it was planned to construct pavilions at Oxnards/Husbands, St. James, Husbands Gardens, St. James and complete the pavilions at St. Martin and Bayleys in St. Philip.

Lights installations, he added, were also planned for several areas.†Lashley told Barbados TODAY that during the year Government’s financial support was extended to national sports associations to help them administer their programmes. He noted that these funds were however only distributed on the prior submission of audited financial statements.†

“Of the 61 national associations, in 2003/2004 thirty-four benefited, in 2004/2005 thirty-six benefitted, in 2005/2006 thirty-eight benefitted, in 2006/2007 thirty-six benefitted, in 2007/2008 and 2008/2009 forty benefitted, in 2009/2010 thirty-five benefited, in 2010/2011 thirty eight benefitted and 2011/2012 a record 43 benefitted,” he said.††

Minister Lashley stated he had been advised by the National Sports Council that the timeline for completion of the track at the National Stadium by the end of February next year, weather permitting, was still in effect and that the contractors had been working over the Christmas period to ensure that the civil works would be expedited.†He said the asphalt was due to be laid within another week and the covering would be shipped within another two weeks.†

“I need to re-emphasize that the replacement of the track at the stadium does not simply entail the removal of the existing track and putting down a new one. The works included correcting a critical defect with respect to some of the angles of the old track which meant that times recorded at the stadium could not meet international requirements.†

“So substantial civil works had to be done which meant the removal of the pre-existing concrete and excavation of several areas to not only improve drainage but to improve facilities for the shot put, javelin and long jump. The contractor also had to contend with bad weather on some days and they also encountered hard rock during the excavation.†The stadium track has not been replaced since 1999 and I consider this to be a significant achievement and investment in sports particularly in difficult economic times,” he said.†

Lashley said his ministry’s thrust would not be limited to merely enhancing the track at the National Stadium.†

“It is clear that the stadium, in existence for some 40 years, has to be overhauled and made relevant to our current policy. As a key plank of the Government’s sports development programme, I propose to press for the full transformation of the National Stadium into an ultra modern facility.†

“This is an excellent opportunity for joint public/private sector partnership to achieve this. In addition, in view of the need to provide more facilities for sports, the National Sports Council is currently engaged in discussions with the current owners of 43 acres of land at Boarded Hall with a view to planning a new multi-purpose sports facility to be a focal point upon which sports tourism and sports generally can be taken forward,” he indicated.†

Minister Lashley, pledging Government’s support for the continued development of motor sports, said that quite some time had been spent in negotiating the terms of the lease of the land at Bushy Park, St. Philip. However, he added that he expected very soon that all the legal arrangements would be in place to allow for the Bushy Park Development Project to proceed.†

Looking at community sports, especially recent successfully staged community road tennis tournaments, Lashley said his ministry intended to encourage even further involvement in the sport and ultimately aimed to host a world tournament in Barbados in the not-too-distant future.†

Noting that sports was a major worldwide, income-earning commodity, Lashley said the foundation was being laid for the establishment of a full-fledged sports industry in the island.†He explained that the recently Cabinet-approved 2012-2016 Strategic Plan for sports was the start of the process.†

“This is a key achievement because it sets the tone for the transitioning of sports into a full-fledged industry and as a key contibutor to the diversification of the Barbados economy. Our focus over the next five years is to ensure that sports is taken to a new level in Barbados where it can benefit from the kind of incentives that will cause it to grow.†That is why the Ministry has started work with key partners on a Sports Development Bill which will be a comprehensive piece of legislation designed to treat sports as the industry that it needs to be,” he said.†

He explained that the Strategic Plan was designed to achieve operational efficiency at the National Sports Council, develop a sports industry, improve sports facilities and management, develop a high performance sports strategy, improve sports training and development, achieve commercialisation of sports and solidify financing of sports development.†

“What this translates to is improved governance and development of sports on many fronts, leading to improved athlete performance and medal tallies,” the Minister added. (WG)††

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