Home / Rio 2016 / Wishful thinking of Olympian proportions: Daly looks from Dick to Hypolite and in-between

Wishful thinking of Olympian proportions: Daly looks from Dick to Hypolite and in-between

There is no reason to be harsh towards the Trinidad and Tobago athletes who represented us at the Rio Olympics 2016. They tried their best.

However it is clear that a precursor to the negative feelings was the country’s outrage at one of the selection processes and the apparent supervisory impotence or indifference of the fast and fat-talking Trinidad and Tobago Olympic Committee (TTOC) jefe to the clamour.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago's Marisa Dick goes through her routine on the balance beam at the Rio Olympic Games on 7 August 2016. (Courtesy Sean Morrison/Wired868)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago’s Marisa Dick goes through her routine on the balance beam at the Rio Olympic Games on 7 August 2016.
(Courtesy Sean Morrison/Wired868)

Professional responsibilities restrain me from referring any further to that one impugned selection process.  Nevertheless our country’s sports administration must come under close scrutiny in light of disappointment at our lack of medals in the Rio Olympics other than Keshorn Walcott’s bronze, although the disappointment is somewhat misguided as a result of emotional media hype and official fat talk.

There is no need for much guidance from commentators on this subject. Our veteran Olympic swimmer, George Bovell—as did Great Britain’s swimming coach—made strong statements about the slackness of the international swimming body.

Here at home, there have been well-informed rumblings about cycling administration, relay preparation, team unity and what is the purpose of a Chef de Mission if duties like presenting protests against disqualification are the exclusive business of the manager or the management team of each discipline.

The Chef de Mission has explained these demarcation lines in a recent interview in the Trinidad Guardian also designed to find out how come he had time to be a commentator for ESPN. I enjoyed his commentary but it suggests that he had plenty time on his hands.

Photo: TTOC president Brian Lewis (right) and NAAA president Ephraim Serrette. (Courtesy NAAA)
Photo: TTOC president Brian Lewis (right) and NAAA president Ephraim Serrette.
(Courtesy NAAA)

The explanation raises questions about the size of the delegations that accompany the athletes. Let me put this in a context outside of Trinidad and Tobago so that it will be clear that it is not a novel question.

In neighbouring St Kitts and Nevis, their outstanding sprinter, Kim Collins, was expelled from the 2012 London Olympic games for allegedly missing training sessions. Collins said the dispute arose over his spending a night outside the Olympic village in a hotel with his wife and children.

As the dispute raged, Collins was quick to jeer that his country has six athletes but nine officials. The issue was eventually settled and Collins competed in Rio.

In the aftermath of our Rio disappointments the athletics establishments are now passing everything off with “we have talented athletes and we are going to rebuild for Tokyo 2020”. So what qualifying standards will be set, especially for membership of a relay team?

Are we going to re-examine these and our timing technology on which we depend for our national records?

These public relations exercises remind me of the cry of “94 for sure” after we had taken it for granted that we were going to the 1990 World Cup football tournament before the debacle of the 19 November 1989 qualifier against USA.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago’s Khalifa St Fort (right) grabs the baton from teammate Kelly Ann Baptiste in the Women’s 4 x 100m Relay Round 1 at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games on 18 August 2016. (Copyright Jewel Samad/AFP 2016)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago’s Khalifa St Fort (right) grabs the baton from teammate Kelly Ann Baptiste in the Women’s 4 x 100m Relay Round 1 at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games on 18 August 2016.
(Copyright Jewel Samad/AFP 2016)

The one ramajay that is laughable is that we will put a structure in place like Jamaica. In this country we do not like too much structure because it will dilute the contact system.

This pernicious system is lucrative and there is great public concern that it impacts preferential treatment for funding and free trips in all aspects of national life in which State agencies hold the purse strings.

Moreover sudden reference to Jamaica’s athletic structure is laughable because the Jamaican tradition of building athletic capacity through school sports is long-standing. Its renowned premier inter-school championship, known as Jamaica Champs, is a tradition reportedly going back to 1911.

Every biographical reference to a Jamaican athlete includes a reference to what school he or she attended. We must also keep a balanced perspective. Having, once in a generation or two, a Usain Bolt—or a Brian Lara in cricket—is a gift.

The task ahead is how do we convert personal best to a medal place?

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago’s Machel Cedenio gestures before competing in the Men’s 400m Semifinal at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games on 13 August 2016. (Copyright Johannes Eisele/AFP 2016)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago’s Machel Cedenio gestures before competing in the Men’s 400m Semifinal at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games on 13 August 2016.
(Copyright Johannes Eisele/AFP 2016)

As one recent editorial commented there is always “a howling for money.” I join with those who say money cannot buy medals if the resources money can buy are not carefully chosen by reference to dedicated athletic development programmes run by proven coaches.

Bravo, Minister of Sport Darryl Smith for stating that athletics programmes must begin in the primary schools. Make it happen and dilute the “barbarism” about which the Prime Minister recently expressed concern.

Going forward with the task there is urgent need to strip away the masks from the governing bodies as well as from the relationships between those governing bodies and the TTOC. We need to understand their respective powers, duties, roles and governance practices.

We also need full transparency in respect of the flows of funds and the criteria for investing those funds in potential athletic prowess.

Until there is accountability at all levels of sport administration, everything else is wishful thinking of Olympian proportions and a disappointed nation will never know whether our athletic interests are being served unencumbered by personal interests and producing value for money. Robber talk will not do.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago’s Keshorn Walcott shows off his bronze medal after finishing third in the Men’s Javelin Throw Final at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games on 20 August 2016.  (Courtesy Sean Morrison/Wired868)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago’s Keshorn Walcott shows off his bronze medal after finishing third in the Men’s Javelin Throw Final at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games on 20 August 2016. 
(Courtesy Sean Morrison/Wired868)

About Martin Daly

Martin Daly
Martin G Daly SC is a prominent attorney-at-law. He is a former Independent Senator and past president of the Law Association of Trinidad and Tobago. He is chairman of the Pat Bishop Foundation, a board member of The Little Carib Theatre and Folkhouse and a steelpan music enthusiast.

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45 comments

  1. THE TTOC PRESIDENT’S COMMENTS HAS HISTORICALLY BEEN THAT OF A CON ARTIST UNMATCHED FOR COMBINING HUMAN INTEREST ,TRUST,BELIEF, WITH DECEPTION AT BASIC HUMAN LEVELS..

  2. That is because like everything else in this country there are people who work hard and try. Think how we would be if everyone went to work and did a fair day’s work!

  3. The Olympic team is a miniature of the country that commissioned it. All the organisational failings are directly consistent with Trnbagonian society. But we should still recognise that we overachieved in terms of our population size ratios as against the countries of the rest of the world.

  4. At least no one advocating building more venues

  5. What exactly is this structure we do not have? And an attorney decrying the size of a delegation is passing hilarious. Attorneys are the inventors of oversized delegations.

    • Maybe ironic for the profession. But that’s not to say that the author is guilty of that.
      What do you mean by attorneys inventing oversized delegations though?

    • The perception that attorneys must always represent you en grappe. The more you can afford, the more attorneys you ‘need’ for a single matter.
      But that’s just perception. And I think it’s also more perception than fact that sporting delegations include a bunch of freeloaders and tourists. I do not believe the majority of us have a clue as to the responsibilities of a delegate on these sporting missions.
      Just to plan and execute a holiday with my family takes some doing so I can only imagine the needs of a group of professional athletes engaged in different sporting disciplines.

  6. “In this country we do not like too much structure because it will dilute the contact system” Absolutely CORRECT!!!….jus keep on dreaming people! we are jus happy go lucky kind of people! that the Gods choose to smile on from time to time.

  7. The medals will come as soon as we put a proper sport programme in place in our schools…I hope the Ministers of Sport and Education could finally deliver that

    • Njisane pointed out that we tend to have talented athletes at junior level who don’t get the support necessary as adults.
      A proper programme in schools will help. But eventually the respective sporting body will have to do its job.

    • The sporting bodies need to operate under more stringent rules…they’re a law unto themselves with no real oversight

    • Part of the problem is there will always be this dichotomy between the Sport and Education ministry. You see it in the primary schools where very promising athletes have to miss classes to train or attend sporting events. I don’t know what the schools put in place for the kids to catch up. Then of course by the time the child is in std 4 parents pull them out of everything so they could fit in all those SEA lessons. Many promising athletes fall by the wayside like this. At secondary school it’s really up to the child to get back up to speed with school work after missing classes to attend training or track meets etc. So in many cases the school won’t bend over backwards to ensure that your child isn’t disadvantaged by sacrificing his schooling for sports. You need to have an ambitious focused child, supportive classmates, teachers, and parents to make this all work.

    • In Europe, the school schedule is set up to allow children more time for extra-curricular activities. In T&T, many children leave home before the sun is up and get home after the sun is set.
      What chance do they have? It ent easy nah.

    • The struggle is real yes. That’s why I love Dunross Prep. Their school day is from 8 to 1:30. They just have 2 twenty minute breaks. This leaves the whole afternoon free for whatever extra curricular children have.

  8. I give you the annual misuse of the Hasely Crawford Stadium for the more important Carnival activities. I also understand that it is really difficult for any organisation or school to have use of the facilities. I remember long ago getting run off the Stadium’s tennis courts on a weekend because they did not want our coach to use them even though he had made what he thought was appropriate arrangements. I suppose all we were doing or going to do was playing tennis on the tennis courts…

  9. It is time for us to have a proper analysis of the Olympics. And that means Brian Lewis should tell us what worked and what didn’t and explain why his 10 gold medals by 2024 slogan should be taken seriously.

    • Earl Best

      It’s NOT a slogan, it’s an “aspiration.” And we don’t have to wait for a report from him to understand that its purpose is to keep our eyes trained on the final destination so we won’t notice the shit that is taking place in the present.

      I haven’t seen him challenge Kim Boodram’s claim (Express, Tuesday August 23, Page 4) that he said that “different results could be expected by “doing the same things over the next four years.” “

      • Lasana Liburd

        Fair enough in it being an aspiration. Brian Lewis has promised to speak to Wired868 as soon as we can schedule it. And he said you were correct–in your post on “Learning from Rio”–and Kim Boodram was wrong on that quote you mentioned.

    • And Lewis is not budging on his 10 golds by 2024 either.

  10. I find it comical when a sport administrator says “we will rebuild for Tokyo 2020”. To rebuild, something must have have been built on a strong foundation in the past that has deteriorated and needs to be revisited and strengthened. That has never happened with sports in T&T so there is nothing to rebuild. There most likely is something to initiate and implement.

  11. Great article. However, it’s interesting, that only, after a postmortem of the Olympics, they’ve now come to these conclusions. When athletes, in all fields, were complaining, about lack of proper management, lack of necessary equipment, adequate facilities, funding, and the general corruption, they have to face, where were all these people, who are now talking transparency??? When athletes have to overcome their crappy conditions, and qualify for World Championships, and the Olympics, then have to be stressed out, to fight for their rightful place, and what they need on a world stage, and still EXPECTED to medal, where, were all these people then??? Yes, T&T is ripe with NATURAL talent, which is seen at the school level. But, we’re all looking to make a name for ourselves, and line our pockets, so we neglect our athletes, and expect them to make us proud. The only way forward from here, is to actually sit down with each of our Olympians, (except Marisa Dick), and find out what was missing, and what is needed. Then we need to fire everyone. From the TTOC, to the “management” of each sport, and replace them with people who are for the sport, know the sport, know what it takes to compete on a world stage, and accountable. Facilities need to be maintained, sponsors need to be sourced, and encouraged to invest, in our athletes, and in T&T sports in general. If no conscious effort is made in this direction, we would continue to spin top in mud, and lose our athletes, to places like USA, England, and Canada, which gives our athletes, what we DO NOT give them.

    • Just one thing to consider. Sometimes when things go wrong, people learn lessons that can be valuable in the future.
      And if you bring in people now who have never been involved in it before, they will have to learn some of those expensive lessons themselves.
      So the trick might be in finding the people who are intelligent enough and love their jobs enough to learn from what went wrong. It could make things worse if we fire people who know where they went wrong and want to fix it.
      What we need to find are the freeloaders and the people who don’t want to put the work in to improve.

    • I totally get that, but, we have to be honest. A lot of the people in these, positions need to be fired, because their sole purpose, is their own interests, and not that of the sport, or athlete. Of course if the person is qualified, and an asset, we keep them, and learn from the problems encountered, and mistakes made in the past. We have many examples from this Olympics alone. Gymnastics, Cycling, Track & Field. I think the positions need to be filled with more qualified appointments, than just friends, and family of the sport. For example, all fields need to be able to have a, “Master of Coin.” That person should have a business, accounting background. That person’s sole purpose, should be to ensure the sport has the necessary funding for rental of facilities, equipment, uniforms, etc. Like any business, have proper bookkeeping, and should ensure the transparency with funding. If every position is tailor made to fit, it would reduce a lot of the problems, and our athletes, can then focus on their training. Having a sound management team, would also encourage the sponsors the sport needs, as well. We have to start from the top. We already have the talent. We have to now make them, confident in us.

    • フィッリプス ナシャ Applause for putting it in a nutshell.

  12. Good read Mr Daly! This line “The task ahead is how do we convert personal best to a medal place?” is so true…we have some work to do…Also i’m still wondering if Any other country would allow its Chef de mission to leave the Olympic village and athletes to go on TV for the duration of the Games…buh say wa?

    • You the public of concerned citizens must challenge and hold responsible our national organisation for what they do and say.Question their motives and how they use the system to their own self-promotion. “TTOC Confirms TTO Chef de Mission to Provide Television Analysis” Is this part of the TTOC’s President move for re-election?

  13. Gosh Mr. Daly touched on a lot of issues here boy. As usual he is on the ball. From his observation that the Dick scandal was a precursor to the negative sentiments about the whole Olympics. To the fact that if our Chef de mission was able to be the face of ESPN for the whole athletic coverage, you wonder if he was needed at all in the games village. But the article from the Jamaican Chef de Mission seemed to indicate that the role is extensive. He’s the chief cook and bottle washer for the team. So we really need to examine our entire Rio excursion. .not so much to lay blame but to look at in the immortal words of Vinood Narwani. ..WHAT WENT WRONG? ??

  14. Earl Best

    Clear-sighted and candid as usual. The tragedy, of course, is that critiques such as these will be dismissed as mere carping. “Daly vex because he eh get to go Rio” is the sort of dismissive comment I wouldn’t be surprise – without the -d so that I can be recognised as a typical Trini – to hear in the street.

    And we shall wait in vain for the media to insist on the kind of accountability for which MD is rightly calling. “Whappen?” you might overrhear being whispered in certain official circles. “You is only you who want to eat ah food?”

    Ah boy! Deh put we so!

  15. ..No real need for comment on this article. It speaks for itself..

  16. Excellent commentary as usual

  17. These people are counting on the Trini mentality of after 9 days we forget all about Rio Fete.

  18. Left Trinidad and Tobago as part of the National delegation. Arrived and accredited to the Olympic Village as part of the National delegation. Gone and do a PJ …at whose expense?

  19. If the Chef de Mission had enough time to be such a regular on ESPN and the relay teams barely trained, maybe we should know more about what our contingent of officials actually did at Rio.

  20. A Big thank you to Mr.Daly for his commentary on the fiasco that was Trinidad and Tobago’s participation at the Rio Olympics.From what is unwillingly emerging is was total chaos in the Trinidad and Tobago camp. Already signs of attributing blame are beginning to surface. What is demanded is a full disclosure on what really occurred before/ during and after. Accountability please.