Even as Olympic hopefuls engage in keen international competition to register qualifying times for Rio 2016, Sports Minister Brent Sancho and T&T Olympic Committee (TTOC) president Brian Lewis are confirming that new and enhanced arrangements for the preparation of athletes ahead of the games are in place.

But neither official was willing to disclose, at this time, the level of investment required to boost T&T’s chances at the games. In a joint interview with the T&T Guardian, they assured the national community and most importantly the athletes and their representing bodies that this country’s medal push for Rio, would be unlike any before.

Lewis said plans for Rio 2016 were “going excellent,” and explained that a pre-qualification figure could not be disclosed because the approach by his executive, the minister and his staff, as well as national sporting organisations was integrated.

“Plans are going extremely well. The Olympic Committee continues to work very closely with the minister of sport and the ministry of sport, the Sport Company (of T&T) and all the stakeholders. We continue to put things in place. The fact is we are approaching a very crucial milestone in the context of Rio 2016, which is one year to go, from the 5th of August. It is very crucial that we continue to work together because with one year to go, there is no room and margin for error where our athletes are concerned,” Lewis said.

Sancho said his ministry staff met with officials of sporting organisation under the Olympic charter for a programme called the Podium Push.

The minister said, “We have asked the different disciplines to go out and come back to us with what they believe their athletes need to be podium ready for 2016. We are just waiting to put the final touches on that. We will now invest further to make sure that the athletes get everything for the next year to make sure that we achieve the lofty, but very attainable goals set by the TTOC president.”

The success at the Pan American Games said Lewis provided greater clarity in terms of who have qualified, while helping his executive to understand what athletes needed to do to qualify. In his view the Podium Push was an ideal complement to the10 or more Olympic Gold Medals by 2024 programme.

Lewis said, “The Olympic Committee is very happy that everything is being done and we are having the positive, necessary and on-going discussions. I am confident once nothing comes in the way of that our athletes will have no reason to say they weren’t as prepared as they could for Rio 2016. We are on the same page with the minister and I feel confident that I can say that because he has been there before and he understands what is required and that it is about action and not talk.”

Sancho praised the TTOC’s 10 or More Olympic Gold Medal initiative, which in his view epitomized the kind of healthy relationship national sporting organisations needed to establish with the corporate sector.

“It’s a wonderful idea. It’s a true testament to the innovative idea that is set out by the TTOC. At the end of the day, I think any financial rewards at the end of it, is something that could be part and parcel of a drive for an athlete to compete and do well, as well as the national pride that comes with ding well for your country. It’s a truly ingenious idea,” he said.

Lewis said a number of joint projects were in the pipeline between the TTOC and the ministry of sport which includes the Elite Athlete Housing Programme and the setting up of the Good Governance Commission.

“So there is a lot taking place. We all recognise that we can’t continue to do that same things over and over and expect different results. The demands now being placed on our athletes and sports and sport administrators means we all need collectively to rise above the challenge,” said the TTOC official.


Ensuring greater appeal to youngsters is as a key aim for the Olympic Movement by Thomas Bach during his address to open the 128th International Olympic Committee (IOC) Session here this evening.

In a lengthy speech, during which he outlined the necessity for and significance of the Agenda 2020 reform process, the IOC President highlighted youth groups as a key target audience which must be prioritised.

“We have to keep our focus on the road ahead and be aware of the bigger developments in the world to anticipate the defining trends of the future,” he said.

“We have to look no further than our host country Malaysia to get a sense of what the future will look like.

“The median age here in Malaysia is around 25.

"In fact, with over half the world’s population under 30, there are more young people in the world than ever before.

“We must ensure that the Olympic values resonate with the next generations.”

As well as tomorrow’s vote between Brasov and Lausanne to decide the host nation of the 2020 Winter Youth Olympics, Bach also highlighted the new Olympic TV Channel as a “gamechanger” which will realise this ambition.

During a address which explored well-trodden themes, Bach also claimedrecent successes in acquiring long-term contracts in marketing and television-rights negotiations worth $14 billion (£9 billion/€13 billion) is evidence that “our partners have such great confidence in the IOC and the direction we are taking”.
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He also claimed commitments from five countries so far to bid for the 2024 Summer Olympics and Paralympics - the United States along with France, Italy, Germany and Hungary - were evidence of enthusiasm for the Games.

Bach is now overseeing his fourth Session as President since being elected to replace Jacques Rogge at the 125th Session in Buenos Aires in 2013.

He spoke this evening alongside Prince Imran, the IOC member and Olympic Council of Malaysia President, as well as Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, who came to the Opening of this Session having just held talks with British Prime Minister David Cameron, who is visiting the country.

Others in attendance included Kazakhstan Prime Minister Karim Massimov and Chinese Vice-Premier Liu Yandong, the delegation leaders for the Almaty and Beijing Olympic bids.

Following the speeches, there was a performance by the National Philharmonic Orchestra as well as several other local artists to set into motion a four-day Session due to begin with tomorrow’s 2022 Winter Olympics and 2020 Winter Youth Olympic votes.

It is scheduled to continue until Monday (August 3).


UK Athletics has received the initial findings of the group it set up to investigate links with the Nike Oregon Project, and has announced that there is no evidence of any wrongdoing by Britain's double Olympic and world 5,000 and 10,000 metres champion Mo Farah or in the input to his training regime there.

In the wake of last month’s allegations by a BBC Panorama programme that Alberto Salazar - head coach at the Project and an unpaid consultant with UK Athletics - had abused anti-doping regulations, Britain’s athletics governing body set up a Performance Oversight Group (POG) to evaluate the situation.

While insisting that no details will be divulged until the current formal investigation by US and UK anti-doping authorities had concluded, the UK Athletics statement added: “With reference to the first and most vital objective of the review, the Board can confirm that none of the extensive information supplied to the POG contained any evidence of impropriety on the part of Mo Farah, nor gave UK Athletics any reason to question the appropriateness of the input given by the Oregon Project to Mo Farah's training regime.”

The statement added: “The Board does not expect to be able to make a public announcement of the outcome of its POG findings until after the World Athletics Championships in Beijing.

“UK Athletics continues to take the issue of doping violations in sport extremely seriously and will assist UKAD and other relevant authorities in their important work whenever required.

“There will be no further comment until the full conclusions of the review are announced.”

Farah was questioned by the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) as part of their investigation after he had won his 3,000m race at last weekend’s International Association of Athletics Federations Diamond League meeting in London.

The 32-year-old Briton was interviewed at the Grange Tower Bridge for five hours by Bill Bock, the American lawyer who played an influential role in bringing down Lance Armstrong.

Farah claimed he had been happy to cooperate with any investigation.


European Olympic Committees (EOC) President Patrick Hickey has fiercely condemned what he describes as the "hypocritical" interference from Western Europe in sporting events, including last month's inaugural European Games in Baku.

The Irishman, who also claimed three cities are being considered to host the second European Games in 2019, insisted how countries "cannot have it both ways" and if they are not bidding and not hosting major events then they are in no position to criticise.

"We are sick to death of being lectured by the countries of Western Europe on the values of Olympism and what to do," he said here on the eve of the 128th International Olympic Committee (IOC) Session.

"Western Europe think that it’s the European Union of 28 countries.

"I'm President of 50 countries of Europe.

"Any one of those 50 countries has the right to host a Games without having to answer questions to the rest of Europe.

“Western Europe doesn’t stand up to the plate.

“They don’t have any Games.

“They don’t bid for anything."

Hickey, also President of the Olympic Council of Ireland and a member of the IOC's ruling Executive Board, clarified that serious human rights allegations do deserve criticism.

He also expressed his delight that at least four European cities are planning to bid for the 2024 Summer Olympics and Paralympics, emphasising that his concerns lie with continental events.

Hickey bemoaned the fact that, with the exception of IOC members Prince Albert of Monaco and Grand Duke Henri of Luxembourg, no Western European leaders attended the Opening Ceremony in Baku despite visiting the country on other occasion when there were political or commercial reasons for doing so.

"We are being used by the politicians to play their game," he added.

"They want us to do the dirty politics but that is not our job.

"We want to focus on sport."

Hickey, like other stakeholders, was forced to deal with much criticism from human rights groups and other organisations in the build-up to the Games, particularly after a journalist from a British newspaper was denied accreditation in the country after having written critical articles on a past visit.

The withdrawal of The Netherlands on the eve of Baku 2015 has left the EOC searching for a host for the 2019 European Games.

Hickey, though, is confident they will be able to announce one soon.

“We’re on target and contrary to what everyone thinks that there might never be a second edition of the European Games, let me tell you very clearly that there will be," he said.

"We’ll make the announcement of the city towards the end of the year.

"We are negotiating at the moment for three key cities.

"It was six but we’ve already whittled it down to three."

He did not confirm that his criticism of Western Europe means no cities from that region was among the three, answering only that "the three bidders are all from Europe".

A debrief meeting in Rome from September 9 to 11 is due to be the next key staging post before a report is given at the EOC Executive Committee meeting in Albanian capital Tirana on September 17, he revealed.

They hope to then make a final decision at the General Assembly in Prague on November 20 and 21.


The Trinidad and Tobago Olympic Committee (TTOC) concluded the second leg of its 13th Annual Olympic Youth Camp at Guardian Holdings Limited, Westmoorings, on the weekend.

This marked the end of a two-week camp from July 6-11 (Tobago) and 20–25 (Trinidad) that targeted athletes in the 11-14 age groups.

The theme this year ‘10Golds2024’ or “10G24” encouraged young athletes to strive for excellence in their sporting discipline and also exemplified the Olympic principles of fair play, respect for others, joy of effort and balance between body, will and mind. Youth facilitators (past campers) explained these principles through drama and team building exercises.

Life skill sessions focused on media interview training, athlete welfare, setting goals (Donald La Guerre, sport psychologist), anti–doping (Andre Collins, Caribbean Sport and Development Agency), critical thinking (Save our Children Foundation) sport for development and peace (Janine Thornhill, Commonwealth Youth Sport for Development and Peace Working Group member) and HIV-AIDS awareness (Youth Department, THA).

The closing of the camp was fashioned after the opening ceremony of an Olympic Games, with Trinidad and Tobago as the host country.

Campers paraded flags from Tokyo 1964 to London 2012 Olympics. In addition, the campers wore decorated face masks showcasing the Olympic flag, Olympic flame, peace and Trinidad and Tobago that were created for their art project during the camp.

In Trinidad, campers presented their art pieces on the 10Golds24 vision which highlighted aspects they believe are essential to achieving a gold medal. They emphasised sound morals and values, self-confidence, enjoyment of their sport, balance between school and training, respect for their competitors and support from family, friends, coaches, medical personnel and sponsors.

The campers also highlighted the significance of inclusion of the differently abled in sport, and the need to stay away from crime, violence and drugs in order to achieve their goals.

The participants were able to learn new sports from their fellow campers such as cycling, badminton, archery, triathlon, hockey, volleyball, badminton, chess, basketball, football and netball. They were also exposed to jump rope (Thandiwe Prescott).

Most impactful for the young participants was the athlete mentors; Mark Anthony Honore (Volleyball), Kieron Pollard (Cricket), Akanni Hislop (Track and Field, Youth Olympian), Pietra Gay (Basketball, Women’s NBA) Sherridan Kirk (Olympian) and Jeannette Small and Kwanieze John (Young Ambassadors Nanjing 2014 and Singapore 2010 Youth Olympics).

The TTOC will like to encourage athletes and mentors interested in the Olympic Youth Camp to send their profiles to the TTOC at jsmall@ttoc.org.


JOANNA PIANGO claimed a gold medal in the equestrian yesterday as Trinidad and Tobago collected six more medals (one gold, one silver and three bronze) at the 2015 Special Olympics World Games in Los Angeles, California, United States.

Up to press time last evening, the Trinidad and Tobago contingent had a haul of 32 medals - 16 gold, six silver and ten bronze.

Piango triumphed in the EQ Equestrian English Equitation Division Two with a score of 53.00.

Nicholas McKnight was the most successful TT performer on the day, as he collected four medals — one silver and three bronze medals in powerlifting.

He placed second in the PL Male Bench Press Division M6 with a best effort of 67.50 kilogrammes. And he finished third in three categories — PL Male Squat Lift Division M6 (67.50 kg), PL Male Combination All Lifts Division M6 (240.0 kg) and PL Male Dead Lift Division M6 (105.0 kg).

Trinidad and Tobago a team of 65 athletes and officials at the Games, and they are seeking to better their achievement at the last Games, which took place in 2011 at Athens, Greece.

Four years ago, the TT participants returned home with a tally of 39 medals - 12 gold, 16 silver and 11 bronze.

The entire Special Olympics contingent comprised of athletes in eight disciplines — aquatics, athletics, basketball, bocce, equestrian, football, powerlifting and volleyball.

The national swim team are yet to feature at the Games, but veteran disability swim coach Stephen Telfer is confident that his charges will reap rewards, in terms of medals.

“I am constantly amazed at the effort the athletes give at each training session,” he said, before the team left Trinidad. I’ve been coaching for years and my athletes never let me down. I expect we’ll be returning home with a lot of precious metal!”

In related news, Digicel showed its appreciation to hundreds of families, volunteers and Local Organising Committees from 23 countries in a celebration event in Los Angeles, California, at the Westin Bonavenure Hotel on Friday last.