Demming: Caribbean Games was perfect forerunner for the Olympics— I’m still toting over cancellation

Making mention of the cancelled Caribbean Games, the Honourable Olivia ‘Babsy’ Grange, Jamaica’s minister of culture, gender, entertainment and sport, wondered aloud why the event had not come off.

This happened at the two-day Community Development Partnership Forum (CDPM-V), during one of the sessions about more regional collaboration in sport.

Photo: Jamaica’s Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport Olivia ‘Babsy’ Grange.

Congratulations are in order for the Honourable Minister of Sport and Community Development Shamfa Cudjoe, whose ministry hosted the online event.

Caribbean Games 2009 (CG09) was allegedly cancelled because of the H1N1 virus and continues to be an unresolved issue with TT$10m dollars sitting in a bank account awaiting resolution while sporting disciplines and sports persons suffer for lack of funding.

By the time I was appointed chair of the inaugural CG09, the concept was fully developed, the event in position to kick off the quadrennial regional sporting activities leading up to the Olympic Games. The dream was for Caribbean nationals to see our sons and daughters perform in person before moving onto the international stage at the Olympics.

Trinidad and Tobago invested TT$36m in the inaugural Games. Thirteen years later, it remains unfinished business, with TT$10m sitting in a bank account and the only likely beneficiaries the bank and the liquidator, Brian Hackett of PWC, who was appointed by Board resolution in April 2012. In the original contract, he was scheduled to receive a regular monthly payment for his professional services.

Photo: Jamaica’s Elaine Thompson (centre), Trinidad and Tobago’s Michelle-Lee Ahye (left) and Brazil’s Vitoria Christina Silva finished first, second and third respectively at the 2019 Pan American Games.
Thompson and Ahye compete at events across the globe but do not have a senior Caribbean tournament to participate in.
(Copyright EFE Agency)

The cancellation of these games represents my closest experience to being horned and experiencing a tabanca. Yes, I have a tabanca and I am ‘toting feelings’ because the resolution of this matter requires only two simple decisions.

The first is which non-profit sporting organisation should receive the TT$10m; the second, what arrangements are to be made for payment of retroactive fees to the board of directors, who served for 30 months without payment, not even for transportation and the use of their cell phones.

I am toting feelings because, at our last meeting to resolve this matter in April 2019, the liquidator showed his bias.

“It is unconscionable,” said Mr Hackett, “to pay the 15 board members a total of $1m for cancelled games.”

Where was Mr Hackett when the following citizens were appointed to form the Board of Directors: David O’Brien (Vice-chair), Dr Iva Gloudon, Douglas Camacho, Dr Arthur Potts, Ashwin Creed, Dr Basil Ince, Brian Lewis, Mushtaque Mohammed and Nassar Racha?

Photo: SporTT chairman Douglas Camacho makes a point.
(via SporTT)

He shows a complete lack of concern for the personal sacrifices which any of these persons might have made.

The matter would not even have been on the agenda if it was the board of directors of an accounting company or association. But we trivialise sports and seek voluntarism until there is a potential win on the global stage.

I am toting feelings because I have written to the sport and finance ministers to bring the matter to their attention and seek a resolution. So far, I have not even had the courtesy of an acknowledgment of my correspondence.

I am toting feelings because I have brought this matter to the attention of our 41 Members of Parliament and only one opposition member troubled to contact me to get more information.

I am toting feelings because mine is the face of the forces that destroyed the dreams and aspirations of a cohort of sportspersons across the region. I remember being on a ferry on the way to a holiday in Bequia when Keith Mitchell, the current prime minister of Grenada, approached me to ask if I was the lady who had cancelled the Caribbean Games.

Photo: Jamaica’s Usain Bolt (centre) finishes ahead of Trinidad and Tobago’s Richard Thomson (right) in the 2016 Rio Olympic Games 100m heats.
Bolt and Thompson would have been headline acts for the Caribbean Games.

I am toting feelings because Douglas Camacho has been deeply involved with the current Ministry of Sport and the matter remains unresolved.

I am toting feelings because Brian Lewis is enjoying an extended presidency of the Trinidad and Tobago Olympic Committee (TTOC) but has done little to resolve this matter.

I am toting feelings because it is an example of the systemic failures which surround us in both the private and the public sectors. The record shows that, globally, PWC’s average time for resolving liquidation matters is three years. We are entering our tenth year and the PWC liquidator continues to preside over this unresolved matter.

In addition, we are now experiencing our third change of government and the matter remains unresolved. Had that TT$10m sum been placed in an interest-bearing account all those years ago, it would today be worth conservatively TT$15m.

Photo: Communication strategist, ex-TDC chair and Wired868 columnist Dennise Demming.

I shed metaphorical tears when I think of the positive impact a couple of million dollars can have on any sporting team. Not to mention sportsperson.

I pray that this matter will be resolved before I die.

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About Dennise Demming

Dennise Demming grew up in East Dry River, Port of Spain and has more than 30 years experience as a communication strategist, political commentator and event planner. She has 15 years experience lecturing business communications at UWI and is the co-licensee for TEDxPortofSpain. Dennise is a member of the HOPE political party.

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