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Sport, carnival and our Carnival mentality combined together, is a powerful force for good and may well be the key to T&T becoming a great Olympic Sport nation and the basis for a sustainable sport industry.

Nobody does carnival like we do. It can’t be explained, you have to experience the outer body bliss that is T&T carnival.

Instead of celebrating our carnival mentality, we celebrate corruption, skulduggery, mediocrity, impropriety, slipshod performance, a poor work ethic, ineptitude and incompetence.

The inherent creativity, inventiveness, work ethic, integrity, sincerity, determination and innovativeness in our carnival DNA is our strength and comparative advantage.

What allows the rank and file of our society to express and vent their frustrations, anger, and despair better than our carnival? We laugh at ourselves and get loose.

Carnival, sport, art, culture, and our music are who we are as a people and as a nation.

Yet we allow self serving tribal instincts to stand in the way of our affirmation and embrace of our Trinbagonianness.

The other point I want to touch on today is good governance.

The T&T Olympic Committee (TTOC) as the authority, voice and representative body of Olympic and Commonwealth sport has a duty, obligation and responsibility to stand up and champion the cause of sport and good sport governance without fear or favour regardless of which political party is in government.

Last week I met with Minister of Sport, Senator the Honourable Brent Sancho and Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Sport, Richard Oliver. What struck me more than their words spoken in the hour long meeting was the sincerity of their patriotic vibes and energy.

In the meeting, the TTOC made no out-of-the-ordinary financial demands. The talks focused on sport related structural, systemic and policy issues. Most importantly good governance.

There were no false airs. It was a respectful but frank exchange of views and ideas.

The kind of exchange true patriots can have when the only agenda and motive is what’s in the best interest of sport and the young people and youth involved in sport.

I expressed the view that no public funds should be handed out to any national sport organisation, governing body or club failing to meet basic principles of good governance. Sport organisations and individuals in receipt of public funds need to remember there is a freedom of information act.

There must be proper accounting for funds received and no further funding given for failure to properly account for funds received. I also shared with the new Minister the TTOC’s intention to establish a good governance code for TTOC affiliated sport organisations.

I left the Ministry of Sport encouraged that there is:

(1) a shared vision, commitment and dedication to ensure that sport in T&T is held to the highest standard of good governance possible

(2) that the best interest of the athletes is the priority

(3) that the Ministry of Sport will be a good governance role model for the sport fraternity in T&T.

(4) Minister Sancho supports 10 or more Olympic Gold medal by the year 2024 (#10golds24) and the concept of the TTOC #10golds24 Athlete Welfare and Preparation Fund.

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The decision to walk the 26.2 distance in the T&T International Marathon had a twofold motive—to raise awareness and funding for the 10 Olympic medals or more by the year 2024 #10golds24 athlete welfare and preparation fund.

Many have asked what I was thinking about when I decided to do the marathon. My main thought was the athletes and what could I do to raise awareness and support for the concept of a fund dedicated to athletes.

In the lead up to the marathon and since successfully completing the marathon the expressions of support have far exceeded the negatives.

Now the hard work will be to get the funding to match the expressions of support.

Raising awareness is not sufficient or good enough. This is not a one-and-done journey.

There will be many trials and tribulations, but what will prove essential is the spirit of resilience and perseverance.

I believe in the very core of my being that the talent we have here is enormous and that the reality is that many of our young athletes have greatness and the potential to be great inside of them.

What they need is the support and people around them who can nurture their self-belief.

I believe that our athletes are capable. I believe that this country can produce more Olympic champions.

Not everyone has to believe that it is possible. We just need a small band of determined and dedicated enablers who have the conviction that our young people deserve a chance.

During my walk, at one of the lowest points when I was hurting mentally, physically and emotionally, a little girl about eight or nine years old standing on the pavement near a water stop gave me a donation of $85 dollars. I recall looking at the little girl and at her donation and saying to Sgt Roger Daniel: “I have to finish.” That little girl represented why I was doing the walk. She reminded me that the children, youth and young people as represented by the nation’s athletes wanted to aspire for something greater.

It is a moment and an interaction I will never forget because it served to shake me out of a moment of self-doubt.

#10GOLDS24 is an affirmation that we can aspire and achieve big goals. It’s a dare and a challenge. Do we have what it takes? Do we believe that we can achieve Olympic greatness?

That so many people have expressed their support is a clear indication that many of us have the self-belief that we deserve better than we are currently getting.

All that has happened over the years is that we were brainwashed into thinking that we didn’t have what was required and therefore must be grateful for small mercies.

I enjoyed the walk. It was tough, but I enjoyed it.

The teamwork, the support, the camaraderie.

On two occasions I had to receive treatment for severe cramp but at no time did those walking with me suggest that I would have to quit.

Quitting just wasn’t on the cards.

So where do we go from here? How do we build on the momentum of the successful completion of the marathon walk?

Time will tell. But rest assured there is no turning back.

#10GOLDS24 Athlete welfare and preparation is underway.

Donations are required on an ongoing basis and can be made at any Scotia Bank. The TTOC’s account number is 171188 or by cheque made payable to TTOC and mailed to or dropped off at Olympic House 121 Abrecromby Street, Port-of-Spain.

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Trinidad and Tobago’s Under 20 men’s team suffered their first defeat, going down disappointingly 2-0 to Guatemala on Wednesday but are still very much in the race to secure one of two World Cup playoff spots at the CONCACAF Championship in Jamaica.

The loss on Wednesday left T&T in fourth place with four points and a plus-two goal difference, level  on  points with United States who are ahead on a plus-seven goal difference after their 8-0 win over Aruba.
Panama are atop the group with nine points and Guatemala are second on seven. Jamaica are fifth with one point, while Aruba remain in the cellar position.
T&T have it in their own hands as victories in their next encounter against Panama on Sunday and against the USA next Wednesday in Montego Bay, are likely to push them into the playoffs from which the top two teams will advance to the FIFA Under-20 World Cup in New Zealand.
Head Coach Derek King expressed his disappointment with the manner in which T&T conceded and gave away Wednesday’s match to the Central Americans.
T&T outshot their opponents 11 to one but Martieon Watson’s unfortunate 25th minute own goal and a disastrous error by goalkeeper Johan Welch in the 88th proved to be the difference.
“I’m very disappointed because we were outstanding in the first 20 minutes. They scored against the run of play, the own goal off Watson. They didn’t create any chances until late in the game. In our final third we were still rushing that final pass which wasn’t always on but we still created a number of chances,” King told TTFA Media.
“Guatemala only dropped off and kept their shape and it worked for them, It’s a tough loss to accept because we were better on the day but the result went in their favour. Goals win matches and now we have to fix that for our next two games.”
King emphasised the importance of T&T bouncing back in their remaining two matches.
“Panama and USA will be very tough but we have it in our hands. We have a few days before those two games in Montego Bay and we’ll have to regroup and try to come back strong to keep the dream alive,” he added.

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It’s important in life to not have regrets. Whatever you are doing or choose to do must have a compelling sense of purpose and commitment. Nothing worthwhile has ever been achieved without a high risk propensity. The fear of failure has been an insurmountable mountain for many people. No one wants to look like an utter fool or idiot.

There are no guarantees. No one can say with absolute certainty that they will achieve their stated or declared goals or objectives.

I was telling someone a few days ago that I have one mission which is to improve conditions for athletes, sportsmen and women in T&T and to do so with integrity and ethically.

I am clear in my mind that by focusing on our athletes, sportsmen and women, sport will make significant and sustainable progress.

But in doing so and in striving to achieve that mission, there are critical success factors.

Not everyone will agree with me and not everyone will see things the way I see it and that’s just fine as I respect everyone’s right to their opinion and views and to disagree with me

But having experienced first hand and intimately the highs and lows of a sporting life in T&T, I feel confident that serving our athletes, sportsmen and women and striving to create the enabling environment that will allow them to execute on their critical success factors is the right thing to do.

Should the focus be on the athletes, sportsmen and women to such an extent that other stakeholder’s interest and needs are sidelined?

That’s not what I am saying or seeking to do. What I am saying is that it’s the athletes who have to perform and by their success there is a ripple effect that will redound to the benefit of sport in general and the country by extension.

I have no problem explaining why I am focused on athletes but there are people in decision making and policy making positions who prefer to speculate and naysay without asking me why?

I am a phone call away and will be more than happy to have a cordial discussion.

Mine is a simple perspective: fix things for the athletes, sportsmen and women especially those who have the potential to be successful at the elite and Olympic level.

The history of our sport has been one where sportsmen and women have carried the burden of sporting success no matter how that success is measured.

T&T has benefitted in more ways than one from the success of our dedicated sportsmen and women.

For how long will the cries of our sportsmen and women go unheeded and ignored?

Those who choose to ignore the reality on the ground can feel free to do so. I have no intention of turning away from what I know from firsthand experience to be the real story.

In an effort to raise public awareness and kick start fund raising, I am participating in the Trinidad International Marathon.

I am as determined to finish the 26 mile journey as I am confident that setting a target of 10 or more Olympic gold medals by the year 2024 is the right objective as is establishing a dedicated T&T Olympic Committee (TTOC) Athlete Welfare and Preparation Fund that is independent and non-governmental.

The #10golds24 Athlete Welfare and Preparation fund enables the public, former national sportsmen and women, fans and supporters of sport and corporate T&T to contribute and financially support athletes who aspire to qualify for the Olympics and be an Olympic champion.

We all have choices in life but whatever choice you make remember action speaks louder than words.

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The incessant drum beat of doom and gloom emanating from the minds, mouths and pens of some of the country’s brightest and best business, political and economic minds may well be the dose of needed realism that is required.

But it is indicative of the lack of vision that has blighted our nation and fuelled a morose, almost desperate inferiority complex.

The plunging oil dollar is not a new situation. Those old enough will have experienced at least one such crisis. History will show we have survived and come through the rough seas. What history will also show is that we haven’t learned anything and keep making the same mistakes again and again.

So every time the oil price takes the not unexpected cyclical dip, our default position is hysteria and desperation masking as realism.

Whatever the economic and social challenges that may be on the horizon, I am confident that we will survive. What I would like to see us do is grab the opportunities to make the fundamental changes that we have avoided. The country’s economy is dependent on oil and gas. There is need to diversify. When would serious and tangible steps be made to transform the economy.

Sport can be an essential player in this transformation. Given appropriate measures that will aid the establishment of a structured policy framework to enable the development of a sport sector, sport will contribute to the growth and sustainability of the non-energy sector of the economy.

Creativity and thinking out of the box is required. Giving serious consideration to sport and a sport sector requires the conventional wisdom to think out of the box.

Structural transformation is urgently needed. We need to radically transform the way people look at sport.

The paradox is that a sport business sector will have to generate profit and return on investment for investors and banks. To successfully develop a sustainable, vibrant and dynamic sport business sector will require people who care deeply about sport, who have a greater sense of purpose other than just money.

Why? Because the battles are simply too tough to fight simply for money’s sake.

What makes a sports team successful? It depends on the sport. In general there is the need for talented, fit and well trained athletes and a competent coaching staff. One thing for sure is that every sport requires its athletes to be physically fit. In the same way establishing a sport sector will require people who have the fundamental skills, the basics without which no business can survive.

Being superbly fit is a basic requirement; it takes more than fitness to win an Olympic medal.

What separates the great athletes from the good and even extraordinary athlete? The greats consistently meet the critical success factors for their chosen sport. The ability to execute on the critical success factors is the difference between great and almost great.

It’s the same in business, medicine, law, entrepreneurship. The winners figure out what are the critical success factors and execute and deliver on them.

We live in a changing world. Trends are all around us. These trends provide an abundant source of opportunities.

What does it take to win?

A Margaret Mead quote points the way. She said: “never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world.”

All we need is a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens to change the fortunes and future of T&T.

Brian Lewis is the president of the T&T Olympic Committee. The views expressed are not necessarily those of the national Olympic committee.

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