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By Kern De Freitas

..due to unfinished stadium track

The 2011 Sagicor Open National Track and Field Championships will not run off next weekend as planned, because the laying of the new mondo track at Hasely Crawford Stadium will not be completed in time.

The track was scheduled for completion three days ago, well ahead of the June 25-26 National Championships. But an update on the progress at the Mucurapo venue yesterday from the Sport Company of Trinidad and Tobago (SPORTT) indicated that the track installation, originally scheduled to be completed three days ago, was set back by two weeks due to bad weather.

"Meinolf Meier, specialist engineer with Porplastics, has stated that the installation process requires absolute dry conditions in order to ensure the integrity and durability of the track's structured surface and under layer support," a SPORTT release advised yesterday.

The NAAA subsequently issued a release of their own, stating that the Championships have been postponed "until further notice" because of the unavailability of the venue.

The project—which has cost the Ministry in excess of $9.2 million— is at 80 per cent completion, but it will require a further 14 days, the release said, to have the track installed.

This presents a problem for the National Association of Athletics Administrations (NAAA), the governing body for track and field in T&T. It has already spent more than $150,000 in television advertising and booked hotels and visiting athletes have already booked tickets for the event.

Worse, the NAAA is unlikely to secure the services of top athletes, both local and foreign, if the meet is shifted to July.

Athletes from St Kitts and Nevis, Antigua and Barbuda, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Guyana and Puerto Rico have already been confirmed to compete at the Championships.

These include relay teams from Puerto Rico and St Kitts, as well as sprinters Kim Collins of St Kitts and Antigua's Daniel Bailey.

There were also five Kenyans confirmed for the 5,000-metre event, as well as 400-metre hurdles runners coming to challenge T&T's Jehue Gordon.

Athletes would have used the Championships as practice to fine tune their techniques and to qualify for the 2011 World Championships.

Allan Baboolal, chairman of the NAAA games committee, was unhappy with the news.

"(It's) a major disappointment for the NAAA because of the fact what we already have everything in place from our side, countries booked their tickets and coming here."

He explained that if the Championships are hosted in July, it would be a "watered down" meet, with the unavailability of not only the foreign athletes, but the top locals as well, who already have commitments to compete in Europe next month, ahead of the World Championships, which run off in late August.

Acting Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Sport, Ashwin Creed, told the Express yesterday that the NAAA had been advised previously that the works would be completed "contingent to weather".

He explained that construction only started after a lengthy procurement process, after which the funding was made available to begin the project.

The SPORTT release also refers to "contingency plans" to facilitate the "needs of all the stadium's key stakeholders".

The Hasely Crawford Stadium track, however, is the only IAAF certified venue for track and field in Trinidad and Tobago and is therefore the only one that can host qualifying events for international events like the World Championships.