Sport development at top of agenda but some associations not measuring up - Neil Kumar By Lloyda Nicholas
Stabroek News
January 14, 2007

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Director of Sport Neil Kumar has said that this would be a huge year for the development of sport in Guyana, but he questioned the capacity of some organizations to adequately utilize facilities if Government were to make that investment.

Kumar spoke with Stabroek Sport in a telephone interview and said that the Government would be paying more attention to sport and would particularly be concentrating on coaching and infrastructure development. Kumar made these statements in light of President Bharrat Jagdeo's stated re-commitment to providing $100 million annually to sport and arts development as outlined in the People's Progressive Party's manifesto.

However, when quizzed on the specifics of funding in relation to a synthetic track for athletic development, Kumar took the opportunity to question the ability of the Athletic Association of Guyana (AAG) to adequately utilize the facility. He also mentioned the Guyana Cycling Federation (GCF) who had been calling for the construction of a velodrome, indoor cycling track or a banked track for outdoor racing, as an association he is not sure will make the investment worthwhile. The Sport Director observed that the two associations had been having just a limited number of activities and that would not justify the expenditure. He said that these associations had to become better organized and have more local activities if such facilities were to be adequately utilized. He said, "They need to stop talking and get things done."

On the other hand, Kumar said that he would support the construction of an Olympic-sized swimming pool since he believed that the Guyana Amateur Swimming Associ-ation would make full use of the facility.

Meanwhile, Stabroek Sport spoke with President of the GCF Hector Edwards in relation to Kumar's comments and he responded that with facilities of international standard Guyana would be able to host more events and attract international cyclists to compete in the country. "No one will come to Guyana to race on grass," he said.

Edwards added that currently, local cyclists were forced to travel to Trinidad to train because of a lack of facilities here. The GCF president went on to say that he did not believe he would see a cycling track of international standard in Guyana in his lifetime and that a lot of distrust had developed between his association and the National Sport Commission.

This, he said, was because despite the fact that they had been submitting budgets to the NSC at the beginning of each year as required, every time they requested funding, they had been told that no money was available. He pointed out that one such incident occurred when the GCF had approached the NSC for funding for a team to represent Guyana at the Caribbean Cycling Champ-ionships.

When Stabroek Sport asked Kumar about complaints that some associations have about not receiving funding to send their athletes overseas for competitions and training, he said, "Some Sport Associations are only interested in trips overseas and are not doing any internal work."

Stabroek Sport also contacted President of the AAG Claude Blackmore who was unwilling to respond to the Sport Director's comments. However, last year the regional director for the Inter-national Association of Athe-letic Federations (IAAF) South America, Juan Alberto Scarpin visited Guyana and said that about $10 million could be available for the construction of a synthetic track. Blackmore had at that time stated that international governing bodies did not fund the construction of facilities like stadia and swimming pools, which they considered the responsibility of a country's government to the people.

Multi-purpose stadiums

Kumar said that plans were moving ahead for the construction of two multi-purpose stadiums, one in Berbice and one in Essequibo with a grant from the Indian Government. He said that Minister of Sport Dr. Frank Anthony recently had a positive meeting with the Indian High Commissioner. Kumar said that these stadiums could possibly include basketball, netball, volleyball and other courts and facilities in addition to synthetic tracks and swimming pools. However, construction plans have not been completed.

Also in the area of infrastructural development, Kumar said that the construction of the Providence Stadium was a tremendous boost for sport in Guyana. He added that he hoped by the end of 2007 the stadium would be fully utilized.

Kumar said that the NSC would be concentrating on accountability for associations this year. They would have to provide the three requirements - Annual General Meetings, their programme for the year and audited financial statements, if they were to receive Government support. He said that for the most part associations had been meeting these requirements but he named the Guyana Amateur Basket-ball Federation (GABF) as one of the 'delinquent' associations.

The Guyana Table Tennis Association (GTTA) also came in for criticism over the fact that the drawing for their raffle which began last year was yet to be held. He also had some criticism for the overall running of the organization. General Secretary of the Association Godfrey Munro admitted that the raffle had not been drawn but said that the prizes, which are donated by Courts Guyana Incorporated were still being housed at the Cliff Anderson Sport Hall since the tickets had not been reconciled as many of them are yet to be submitted.

He pointed to the organization's administrative problems, which he said the Sport Director was aware of. He said that the positions of president, senior vice president, treasurer and other positions were now defunct. Munro said that elections would be held in the next few weeks but for the past year and a half only two people had been functioning to keep the association running, since the other members of the board had not been functioning in their positions. He noted that the GTTA had provided audited reports up to 2005.

The Sport Director said that Government would be working this year with the identified weaker sport organizations to build their capacities and ensure the development of those sport. He added that the focus would be placed on the two main sports, football and cricket. Kumar praised Minister Anthony who he said had been very aggressive in getting things done.