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A new 'Olympic' spirit
AT THE HELM: Diane Henderson, recently-elected president of the TTOC.

A new 'Olympic' spirit

Go Back : Express : Garth Wattley : 10.05.2022

Chatting with a colleague recently about the evolution of cricket, it occurred to me that while change might be inevitable, progress is not.

I see neighbourhood children getting bigger and bigger. But I haven't noticed them going to school. If that trend continues, will they have become well-adjusted, productive young people by the time they reach age 18?

The Trinidad and Tobago Olympic Committee is now 75 years-plus old. Has this sporting organisation moved with the times?

If you asked Brian Lewis, there would be only one answer. "That's a no-brainer, yes of course," he might reply.

Now that he has handed over the keys at Olympic House to Diane Henderson, it is a good time to reflect on what the eight/nine years under Lewis as president brought for the local sporting community.

Lewis says: "The Trinidad and Tobago Olympic Committee has transformed since 2013. It has become athlete-centred, market-oriented; very entrepreneurial, innovative and it's well on the way for digital transformation."

I cannot personally testify to the athlete-centred part, not having the personal experiences of athletes to go by, but in principle and mostly on the evidence of the TTOC's programmes since 2013, Lewis' statement is truthful.

As a reminder, there has come into being the Future Is Female programme; Ten gold by 2024; the Sport Industry TT conference and the establishing of a marketing department at the TTOC.

Lewis adds: "The athlete welfare and preparation fund will be transformed and transitioned from a fund to a full-fledged statutory foundation and the setting up of three non-profit incorporated companies."

By any estimation, but especially in the context of the very easy pace at which things usually get done in these islands and the bureaucratic red tape that often contributes to that pace, that is a lot of accomplishment.

"Things have been done to set the stage for an innovative, entrepreneurial Trinidad and Tobago Olympic and Trinidad and Tobago Commonwealth Games Association that is fit for purpose for the modern and contemporary post-Covid era," Lewis says.

The work done by Lewis' predecessors like Knolly Henderson - the longest-serving TTOC president to date, Alexander Chapman, and Lewis' immediate predecessors Douglas Camacho and Larry Romany, got the organisation to a point of stability and efficiency. But in the last nine years, the TTOC has really tried to meet the demands of a rapidly changing modern environment.

Whether Lewis had the vision entirely on his own to see where the organisation had to get to next, I cannot say. Evolution like this requires a shared vision and collective effort. But I can say that Lewis brought an energy and a level of determination to his work that was refreshing and noteworthy.

I cannot count the number of emails and Whatsapp messages I have received over the years announcing this initiative or that conference. The media cannot say that it was starved of information about the TTOC under Lewis. Yet, I would probably be wrong to describe him as a "chief cook and bottle-washer."

One of the interesting things about the modern-day Olympic Committee is that there is a core group that one associates with the organisation. New president Diane Henderson is part of that team. And Lewis has also succeeded in breaking the male-centric focus of the Olympic Committee. That reflects a desire to use all the resources at one's disposal.

"You look back on the two terms. There are things you wish didn't happen; there were mistakes that would have been made. There have been high points and low points," Lewis also notes.

Not every sporting organisation or athlete may have been pleased with every decision that the TTOC has made - like the Basketball Federation for instance.

But by and large it is hard to argue that local sport is not better off now in the way in which it is served by its Olympic Committee.

The TTOC now is not simply a "Big Games" organisation, which comes alive essentially when teams have to be selected and travel to global or regional competitions. At the least, Brian Lewis can say "I had a little hand in that."

The challenge for new president Henderson now is to keep the TTOC on a progressive pathway. She cannot do it the Lewis way, but it would also be foolhardy to rip up the script and steer the organisation away from a mode of operation and an outlook that has brought improvement.

The Caribbean region has paid the price too many times when leaders at all levels have tried to erase the work that others have done before them. I don't anticipate this happening with the TTOC under president Henderson. Olympic House has come too far to fall down now.