OPPOSITION Senator and former Sport Minister Anil Roberts has bemoaned the lack of maintenance for local sporting venues, as he made his contribution during the 2021-2022 fiscal budget presentation in the Senate on Tuesday.
According to Roberts, "Nicholas Paul, our great cyclist, has to train outside of Trinidad and Tobago, even though we have the best cycling velodrome in the western hemisphere because we have not embarked on an investment in coaches, in sports science, in massage therapy, in physiotherapy, for this great athlete.”
With regards to the Aquatic Centre, which is located next to the National Cycling Velodrome in Balmain, Couva, Roberts commented, “The Aquatic Centre has sat there, without investment, during the months of November to January.
“That Aquatic Centre, if marketed properly for our students who are abroad in the USA, Canada and Europe could generate up to upwards of $2.1 million in that three-month period, enough to run that facility for the entire year, and our children can use it free of charge. All our stadia and recreation grounds are in a state of disrepair.”
Roberts, the former swim coach of Olympians George Bovell III, Siobhan Cropper and Barbados’ Leah Martindale, said, “No astroturf for hockey (at the National Hockey Centre in Tacarigua). Gary Griffith (came) in and build a hockey turf (at the Police Barracks in St James), quicker than the Sports Company and the Minister of Sport, (and) now they want to get rid of him.”
Roberts also touched on the government’s refusal to implement the Anti-Doping Bill.
"Doping scandals damage the image of a country,” he said. “The Anti-Doping Bill was passed by me in the House and in the Senate, with unanimous approval, and was proclaimed in June 2015. Up to now, six years later, not one iota of that Bill has been implemented.”
In his typically fiery style, Roberts, who served as Sports Minister from 2010-2014, under the People’s Partnership government, slammed the current PNM regime for providing no plan for sport, as Finance Minister Colm Imbert, during his budget presentation on October 4, allocated less than two minutes for sport.
"The Minister of Finance, in his budget (presentation), mentioned the construction of a pool in Morvant and I was shocked, as video footage would show that the Prime Minister and other ministers cutting the ribbon for this pool on June 23, 2019, but in a budget for 2021-2022, the PNM is taking credit for it,” said Roberts. “He also said the pool was upgraded in the same financial year. So, they constructed a pool in a financial year and upgraded it.”
Roberts also threw a jab at the Finance Minister’s mention about the government’s plans for sports tourism.
"They said that opportunities for sports tourism is abounding and that Trinidad and Tobago would be set to benefit from the hosting of cricket matches West Indies versus England,” said Roberts. “(On Monday) Cricket West Indies announced the host (venues) and not one game for Trinidad and Tobago.
“They talked about a powerboat race for sports tourism. Maybe they'll put some stands in the Gulf of Paria so people can sit down on top of kingfish.”