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Storm clouds, dark and ominous have enveloped the economic landscape. The price of oil is falling and with it optimism and high hopes.

Finance and Economy Minister Larry Howai last week in a statement to the House of Representatives announced that ministries will be ordered to review spending in light of an oil price beneath that budgeted.

“Ministries will therefore be required to review their budgets to determine areas where expenditure can be suppressed,” Howai said.

“The ministry will continue to monitor what is happening in the global environment and to refine our remedial fiscal measures to ensure that the country can respond appropriately to changes in the market for oil and gas.”

National sport organisations in T&T are impacted by the economy. Any reduction in revenue must be of concern to national sport organisations.

The Finance Minister indicated that all ministries must immediately reduce their expense by 45 million dollars each. He also indicated that further adjustments may be necessary as the situation continues.

National sport organisations must have conversations with their membership to prepare for the volatility that can be expected in light of the economic realities.

From a strategic management perspective, not many national sport organisations would have made allowances for the threat posed by falling oil prices.

In fact most national sport organisations have indicated that they were already faced with significant cuts based on what they had budgeted and submitted.

Sport administrators have suggested that they will have to take drastic measures in respect of their plans and programmes.

The next 12 months are critical in the context of Rio 2016 Olympics.

Any drastic curtailing of programmes and plans to properly prepare this country’s elite and high performance athletes and national teams will prove detrimental and may well put an end to any realistic chances of qualifying for Rio 2016 and for those who do qualify, hamper hopes of winning a coveted medal.

Uncertainty for national sport organisations and athletes can prove distracting but it need not derail efforts to achieve podium targets.

Overcoming the financial challenges will not be easy but remaining positive and determined is the perfect antidote.

Falling oil prices highlight the downside of the dependency on oil and gas as the main pillar of the economy.

Sport presents a number of opportunities and regardless of the price of oil, life will go on.

National sport organisations that are able to forge the appropriate strategic response will cope with the turbulence.

The main concern will be for our athletes. It will be the responsibility of the sport administrators to negate the pitfalls.

The importance of a well-structured resource allocation process becomes a critical success factor. How will national sport organisations invest resources? How will national sport organisations evaluate if its resource allocation is effective?

Falling oil prices and austerity measures need not be detrimental to national sport organisations and athletes. In fact it may well turn out to be a positive turning point for resource allocation within the T&T sport ecosystem.

In a very real sense falling oil prices and the adverse impact on the economy while troubling, presents the opportunity for national sport organisations to become more strategic.

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

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There is a need to get serious about implementing policy. The discipline needed to effectively and efficiently implement and execute policy is proving elusive in T&T.

In sports, the focus tends to be on the big things, most times that boils down to getting the win or the W to use sport jargon.

Get the W.

But getting the Big W comes down to getting the little things right. It’s what is done on a daily basis—day to day that is critical.

Too often we don’t see the importance of the little things because they seem insignificant, so by failing to get the little things right we come up short.

It’s invariably the little things that determine the eventual outcome. You don’t know beforehand which ones they will be.

Every action can be game changing. Doing the little things right is critical.

The little things we fail to do or fail to see—and the result is less than we plan.

We fall short because some of us see policy discipline and policy process as little details that can be easily bypassed.

There are policy and policy guidelines but a lack of discipline in implementing is an ongoing problem.

If it isn’t politics and the politics of the day, personal opinion and judgment override policy.

A lack of policy discipline provides fertile ground for waste, mismanagement, dysfunction, ineffectiveness and inefficiency.

In every document you read that relates to the Ministry of Sport and Sport Company of Trinidad and Tobago (Sportt) reference is made to the fact that what they both do is driven by the National Sport Policy established in 2002, and the strategic/operational plan of the Ministry of Sport.

It is acknowledged that execution of sporting initiatives is the responsibility of the various national sport organisations for the respective sports and that Sportt’s role is to facilitate the execution of the mandates of each National Sport Organisation (NSO).

Sportt at this time is responsible for providing support for the development of 16 sports. NSOs are managed on a grant funding arrangement. The criteria established by Sportt for accessing funding include submissions by NSOs of their strategic plan and annual operational plan, development plan based on the pathway model specific to their sport and audited financial statements and detailed budgets.

The three major pillars are high performance sport or elite sport; total participation in sport or sport for all and sport as an industry.

In the coming weeks we will take a closer look at the institutional framework and other key elements that make up the national sport policy and other policy guidelines in respect of the broader issues regarding the development of sport in T&T. Transparency and accountability demands that there be open and candid discussions. Indiscipline and failure to stick to the policy cycle is proving harmful to the sustainable development and management of sport here in T&T.

The sustainable development of sport depends on the quality of the policy framework.

We all need to get serious about the discipline required to effectively and efficiently implement and execute plans and policy.

How do we determine policy failure or success if we are reviewing and changing before implementing, monitoring and evaluation?

It’s not beneficial to rubber stamp systemic failure to implement and execute.

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If you look in the thesaurus for the word sport, you will find words such as pastime, entertainment, amusement and diversion.

There are many dedicated people putting in a lot of time and energy to deliver the benefits that can come through sport. But they are becoming disheartened. Their enthusiasm is waning in the face of many problems, fraudulent statements, lies, speculation and things going wrong. Negative attacks take on a life of their own and live on.

Love and passion provide the impetus for not giving up, but at some point the reality that love and passion aren’t hard currency that can buy groceries or pay the bills hits home. Then the question as to why am I doing this? How do those who have to deal with the demoralising frustrations keep some semblance of sanity, faith and trust?

Sport is embraced by almost everyone, including politicians and business leaders. The adulation when our elite level athletes and national teams do well can be described as awesome.

Dr Roy Mc Cree in a paper entitled The Exclusion of Sport from Caribbean Economic Development, made the point that historically sport has been excluded from official and dominant notions of economic development in the Caribbean and that the factors for that exclusion represent the colonial derived, received or orthodox view of sport.

If you said sport in T&T is facing an uncertain future you would not be taken seriously. However, it is a reality that sport is struggling. For the majority of sport organisations and governing bodies the last year has been the most difficult period financially for quite a while and it’s not going to get better.

National sport organisations and governing bodies must plan for all outcomes including the best case scenario and the worst case. What’s even more important is being able to make rational and objective decisions that are in the best interest of sport.

When sport is running on financial fumes it tends to bring out the worse in everyone. As national sport organisations and national governing bodies’ battle on a daily basis to sustainably develop sport, they have to keep looking in the mirror before looking out of the window.

Significant achievements have never been obtained by taking small risks on unimportant issues.

National sport organisations and national governing bodies, including the TTOC, can no longer avoid championing and advocating for sport from a capital accumulation and economic development perspective.

We spend too much time, effort and attention on stuff that isn’t beneficial or sustainable.  It’s time to shift the focus from solving problems to recognising opportunities.

From a strategic and policy perspective it’s about being proactive, staying abreast of what’s happening and using the opportunity to shape and create a sustainable future for sport.

It’s not just spin.

Many sport stakeholders are pulling their punches or hesitating to express their views. They have become tentative and overly focused on being politically correct- avoiding confronting sensitive issues or making waves.

We have to stop tiptoeing around significant issues.

How do we grow exponential the economic footprint of sport?

Who is willing to bet on sport as an economic game changer? How do we rectify the valid concerns and obviate the failure to embrace the economic development and transformation of sport in T&T.

Why are we missing the boat or is there something more sinister at play?

It’s time to tear down the wall of opposition and resistance to the economic development and transformation of sport in T&T.

The path to sustainable sport success, growth and development starts with a critical look in the mirror.

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

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I read the news on Wednesday, oh boy - 95 words precisely, in my newspaper at least, on those 40 landmark Olympic Agenda 2020 recommendations.

'What is wrong with these people?' I thought. 'Don't they recognise the importance of a sports movement powerful enough to redraw the map of London?'

Then I reflected: if you take the 40 recommendations at face value, 95 words is probably about what they are worth for a mainstream news organisation.

A blueprint to make bidding for and staging the Olympic Games a slightly less daunting, slightly less costly process, and to inject slightly more flexibility into the way the sports programme is chosen, is hardly calculated to set pulses racing around the breakfast tables of Peoria or Antananarivo.

Even the most eye-catching proposal - recommendation 19: "The International Olympic Committee (IOC) to launch an Olympic Channel" - is something it should have done years ago.

The proposals, if passed next month, will pave the way for some useful innovations, but Thomas Bach's five-ring revolution it ain't.

I don't blame the IOC President for this.

As his compatriot Otto von Bismarck observed, politics is the art of the possible.

It would be disastrous for Bach, little more than a year into his tenure, were he to advocate a truly radical series of reforms and then get shot down in flames.

Furthermore, whatever may have been written in recent months as the race for the 2022 Winter Olympics and Paralympics has disintegrated before our eyes, the Olympic model is far from broken.


The Movement generated more than $8 billion (£5 billion/€6.5 billion) from broadcasting, sponsorship, ticketing and licensing in the four year cycle culminating with the London 2012 Games.

What is true is that the broadcasting and international sponsorship revenues that play such an important part in funding National Olympic Committees (NOCs) and International Sports Federations (IFs) are set to pause for breath in the 2013-2016 quadrennium.

Instead, the main engine of growth looks set to be local sponsorship - but these proceeds are earmarked chiefly for the countries where the Games are staged, in this case Russia and Brazil.

So there is no crisis - but what is also self-evident, at least to me, is that the Movement has a structural problem that these recommendations will do, to use the technical term, diddly-squat to address.

The structural problem is that the Winter Games is not a global event because vast sweeps of the globe scarcely ever experience snow and ice.

So as a marketing platform for host countries they are far less powerful than their Summer counterpart.

And yet the hassle factor for the host population is nearly as great.

The solution is obvious.

No, nothing to do with the Jamaican bobsled team.

They should simply move some indoor disciplines with fans in lands where the water never freezes from the bursting-at-the-seams Summer Games to Winter.

Volleyball, for me, would be one strong candidate to make the switch; boxing another.

And why not offer sports, such as squash and karate, which have been battering at Lausanne's door in a so far unsuccessful attempt to get into the Olympics, the opportunity to join the Winter programme?

You get some idea of why Agenda 2020 has steered clear of this sort of thing, if you remember what happened to poor old Brian new-kid-on-the-block Cookson, President of the International Cycling Union (UCI), when he had the temerity earlier this year to suggest something similar.

"Let's think about the Winter Olympics," Cookson said. "Why does it have to be snow and ice?

"If you have a problem with Summer Olympics where the whole thing is perceived as overheated with too many facilities, too many sports, too many competitors and so on, why not look at moving some of the other sports indoors that traditionally take place in the northern hemisphere winter?

"Why not look at combat sports like judo, or other indoor sports like badminton?

"You could even say what about putting track cycling in the Winter Olympics?"

I agree with almost every word of that; yet poor old Cookson ended up having to apologise to International Judo Federation President Marius Vizer - and I can see why - for talking about sports other than cycling.

But if Agenda 2020 is not a suitable forum for giving such ideas a serious airing, you have to wonder what is.

The Winter Games has, I think, one other shot at gingering up interest in its rather jaded concept and producing a more competitive race for 2026, and that is if there is a strong southern hemisphere candidate.

But that would be a short-term fix.

The fundamental problem - that the cost-benefit analysis is not nearly as attractive as for a Summer Games while you do not have a genuinely global product - will remain.

Don't get me wrong: there are a fair few things in these 40 recommendations that it will be good to have: non-discrimination on sexual orientation as a fundamental principle; stronger relationships with organisations managing sport for people with different abilities; proper ceremonies for athletes who win medals after the event as a consequence of disqualifications; an insistence that Olympic Movement organisations comply with basic principles of good governance (though there is nothing about what the consequences would be if they don't).

But there is much that seems vague (recommendation 28 on the key issue of autonomy); little flashes of the old self-indulgence (is it really necessary to spell out quite so baldly that "the field of play for the athletes to always be state-of-the-art for all competitions"?); and the odd line that is plain silly (is the IOC's "ultimate goal" really "to protect clean athletes", as recommendation 15 would have it? I'm not saying that's not important, but I'd have thought its "ultimate goal" was to organise outstanding Games).

The other short-term problem that I fancy the IOC may now face is that if the mainstream media judges the content of Agenda 2020 to be worth only 95 words of its real estate, it may focus instead on where next month's Session, at which the members will pass their verdict, is taking place.

Monte Carlo, with its casino and luxury car showrooms, is a delightful place; but it is not necessarily the ideal backdrop for an organisation at present struggling to convince people that it is in tune with these waste-averse, exceptionally cost-conscious times.

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Recently I read an article about the reasons why the New Zealand 7s rugby team was so successful under Gordon Tietjens. Tietjens coached the New Zealand team for 20 years. His success is legendary. He expects his players to make extreme sacrifices. He revealed that the players have to undergo tests for strength, repeated speed and Beep/YoYo testing.

Tietjens stated that players have to comply with conditioners’ standards.” If they don’t, I don’t pick them”. He expects his players to look after their nutrition, fitness levels and to manage their lifestyles.

Success is mandatory and selection is ruthless. He told the reporter that success in sport, just as in business, depends on culture.

His approach and ethos is mirrored in almost every high performance sport programme across the developed world.

Here in T&T, some people label our sportsmen and women pampered and mentally soft. This is an unfair and judgmental statement meant to cover over the deficiencies of sport leaders, decision makers and the sport system.

There are two sides to every story. What are our athletes saying?

Individual and national team sport athletes determined to maintain their focus and attention on becoming a Continental, Olympic or World champion feel they are being impeded in their efforts by a dysfunctional, bureaucratic, inefficient, ineffective and unsympathetic sport system.

That there are gaps along the pathway from junior to development level and the system is failing those who have the talent and potential to be successful elite level sportsmen and sportswomen.

To achieve excellence they need excellent coaches, excellent training programmes, access to facilities and financial support.

They perceive there is a lack of financial support, lack of coaching expertise and support, lack of training/competition opportunities.

Sportsmen and women perceive the sport system here as an obstacle rather than a success factor.

It makes little sense hiding the extent of the problem.

Lack of support is an obstacle that can negatively impact performance excellence.

In the modern world of elite sport, an amateur athlete or national team is required to train full time to the detriment of other areas of their lives.

Our sportsmen and women need help now, not tomorrow. We have to stop putting the bandwagon before the horse.

Several conclusions can be drawn from the responses of our athletes and national teams.

We are selling our sportsmen and women and national teams short. Our sport system is too far behind.

There is a growing gulf between our sportsmen and women, elite level athletes and national teams and national sport organisations, national governing bodies, Ministry of Sport and the TTOC. The problem needs to be addressed now not later. The landscape is evolving rapidly.

We are fast becoming a relic of a bygone age.

The deficiency has been collective. Elite and Olympic level sport isn’t nebulous. It is performance driven.

Successful athletes and national teams inspire a generation of young people.

We need successful athletes and national teams. Sport provides almost immediate feedback of what you have achieved or not achieved.

People generally have passionate views for a reason. We have to create the sport environment that will inspire our athletes and national teams to strive, achieve and maintain excellence.

Our athletes feel that those in power sit in their ivory tower and remain detached from the feelings and concerns of sportsmen and women. This is not only frustrating but should be of concern to those entrusted with the power and authority to make a positive difference.

The time to start is now.

• Brian Lewis is the President of the Trinidad and Tobago Olympic Committee. The views expressed are not necessarily those of the National Olympic Committee.

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