TT Commonwealth Games Association (TTCGA) president Brian Lewis says this country has a realistic and exciting opportunity to host the 2021 Commonwealth Youth Games (CYG), an event that can put the spotlight on TT as a sports tourism event destination.
“I feel a key part of the bid concept is creating a fantastic experience culturally for these thousand-plus athletes and officials. Getting them to embrace our culture. In terms of our food, our music, our art... I see it being done in a particular kind of way that embraces it all,” said Lewis, who is also head of the TT Olympic Committee (TTOC).
The TTCGA submitted its expression of interest in hosting the event to the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) last month. According to Lewis, the association is currently engaging the private sector to make a practical proposal to the Ministry of Sport, which the TTCGA hopes will back it for an official bid to host the games by the October 17 deadline. He said there have already been preliminary discussions between the two parties.
Belfast, Northern Ireland, originally won the bid two years ago to host the CYG 2021 but then lost the chance due to their supposed failure to guarantee funding. The development resulted in the reopening of bids. New bidders will have to guarantee funding in order to win the bid.
The CGF subsequently released a statement which read: “alternative cities and their respective Commonwealth Games Associations will now be given the opportunity to work with the CGF to develop impactive, cost-effective hosting proposals that bring to life the event’s vision to inspire and engage up to 1000 of the Commonwealth’s finest young athletes in a festival of sport, development and global friendship.”
In an interview with Newsday, Lewis was asked how TT could host the games if Belfast couldn’t afford it. He said Belfast’s failure to follow through with their bid was not a necessarily a clear-cut case of insufficient funds and suggested politics may have been at play.
However, he said the idea of TT hosting the event was “realistic” and “a very exciting possibility”, especially given the development of sports infrastructure for such purposes over the past several years.
“If there is a spread around of the cost, a combination of value-in-kind, I see it as being very possible. I repeat, Bahamas did it and I can’t see why we can’t do it for all the right reasons. “We have a figure (US$6 million) that we anticipate that it should not cost more than. If the whole process and the whole approach to it is private-public partnership oriented, there is a shared vision and a meeting of the minds, to delivers a games that is not ridiculously costly and inflated by inefficiencies and corruption.
“Some serious thought went into it, as to why something like this makes sense. We talking a lot about where you have the velodrome, the aquatic centre, the TTFA home of football. Not far away, we have the cricket centre, you have the national racquet centre.”
He said the timing of the games may fall at a time when TT celebrates Emancipation Day. “So there is opportunity to showcase the experience of Trinidad and Tobago in a very creative, innovative and collaborative way. I feel a key part of the bid concept is creating a fantastic experience culturally for these thousand-plus athletes and officials. Getting them to embrace our culture. In terms of our food, our music, our art... I see it being done in a particular kind of way that embraces it all.”
Lewis said he wanted to have the event as inclusive as possible. “I will certainly want to have Tobago involved,” he said.
“I am looking to have meaningful discussion, mindful of the deadline. Notwithstanding what problems we may have had in the past, I think it is important to learn from those problems, whether it be the Caribbean Games or otherwise and move forward.”
“It is an opportunity for new horizons. And sports tourism is a sector globally that is growing. With most people heading abroad around to watch and play sports, more than ever before, it is important for us in Trinidad and Tobago to seize the moment. We can’t be shy or allow fear to dictate what we do.”
Lewis said TT needs to establish a strong track record in hosting major international sport events and that this country has the capability to do so.
“CGY 2021 can be the catalyst to the growth of the T&T sports business economy. This can be tailored to deliver quality without ridiculous costs.”
The sixth edition of the games was hosted by the Bahamas in 2017. Nine sports were contested including: athletics, swimming, beach soccer, boxing, cycling (road), judo, rugby sevens, tennis and beach volleyball.
Lewis said the aim is to also host a minimum of nine sports with only about two sports to replace those played in the Bahamas.