TTOC president Brian Lewis, from left, journalist/moderator Franka Philip, feature speaker Dale Neuberger, Dr Anand Rampersad present during a panel discussion at the TTOC’s Sport Industry TT Conference at the Hyatt Regency in Port-of-Spain, yesterday.

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"T&T as the sports hub of the Caribbean. Why Not?"

This was the theme of FI­NA pres­i­dent Dale Neu­berg­er’s pre­sen­ta­tion at yes­ter­day’s Sport In­dus­try TT Con­fer­ence which was host­ed by the T&T Olympic Com­mit­tee (TTOC) at the Hy­att Re­gency in Port-of-Spain.

The con­fer­ence in­clud­ed a num­ber of pan­el dis­cus­sions as well as ad­dress­es from var­i­ous pri­vate and pub­lic sec­tor ex­perts on ar­eas from fi­nance, tourism and hos­pi­tal­i­ty to so­cial me­dia, brand­ing and mar­ket­ing as well as event man­age­ment pro­fes­sion­als.

Com­mis­sion­er of Po­lice Gary Grif­fith was al­so present to make a pre­sen­ta­tion on the "Im­pact of Crime on Tourism and the Im­pact of Sport on Crime".

Neu­berg­er’s pre­sen­ta­tion was es­pe­cial­ly thought-pro­vok­ing and one such mo­ment oc­curred when the Amer­i­can en­cour­aged the gath­er­ing to re­peat the fol­low­ing af­fir­ma­tion: "T&T, the sports hub of the Caribbean."

He said, "Be­cause once you say it and once you be­gin to think about it, it ac­tu­al­ly could hap­pen."

The na­tive of In­di­ana, USA, gushed that this was not his first vis­it to T&T, reel­ing out a se­ries of sport­ing facts about this coun­try as he mar­velled at our rich cul­tur­al and sport­ing his­to­ry and tra­di­tion, which he says makes the twin-is­land re­pub­lic a spe­cial place to vis­it.

Neu­berg­er was es­pe­cial­ly com­pli­men­ta­ry about the abun­dance of ded­i­cat­ed and World-class sport­ing fa­cil­i­ties at T&T’s dis­pos­al.

"When I think about these in­cred­i­ble fa­cil­i­ties that you have and all that is pos­si­ble not on­ly for the youth of your coun­try but al­so for oth­ers from around the Caribbean and around the world, it's re­al­ly spe­cial," he said. "Many of the places that are try­ing hard to de­vel­op a sports in­dus­try are fa­cil­i­ty poor. But al­so, peo­ple have a chance to come here and just do some plain ac­tiv­i­ty and have fun. And if there’s any place in the world that I know that peo­ple know how to have fun, it cer­tain­ly is here."

How­ev­er, what Neu­berg­er al­so not­ed is that oth­er coun­tries around the re­gion may have al­ready be­gun to de­vel­op their sports in­dus­tries based heav­i­ly on tra­di­tion­al tourism, which makes it im­per­a­tive for this coun­try to think out­side of the box.

"It's more than sports tourism. That’s a part of it but not all of it. And that’s what your spe­cial op­por­tu­ni­ty is - how do we take this from be­ing what oth­ers are do­ing and that we can do well too and take it to the next lev­el and do some­thing that makes us the cen­tre of ac­tiv­i­ty.

"So what we hope to have hap­pened is that T&T is where cham­pi­ons are crowned and ath­letes come here be­cause this is where the ma­jor events are held. But sec­ond of all, we want T&T to be thought of as the place where im­por­tant de­ci­sions are made. Where im­por­tant dis­cus­sions take place."

Neu­berg­er al­so high­light­ed the need for the si­mul­ta­ne­ous de­vel­op­ment of oth­er ar­eas say­ing: "Part of this whole eco-sys­tem are oth­er el­e­ments too, such as sport busi­ness. Think of all the ser­vices that are nec­es­sary for those events to take place. If there are a sig­nif­i­cant num­ber of events, those busi­ness­es can re­al­ly thrive. Busi­ness­es that are al­ready here, they get stronger as a re­sult and al­so new busi­ness crop up."

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