Barbados has to redouble its efforts towards transforming sports into a sporting industry if local athletes are to excel. But to say that Government is not serious about sports tourism is simply not true, says Minister of Sports Stephen Lashley.
Speaking today from his office at Sky Mall, Haggatt Hall, St Michael during a Press conference held in recognition of Barbadian athletes, Lashley noted that it was not only about putting in place the systems required for creating a sporting industry, but also putting in place legislation that addressed development and the provision of incentives for the sports industry in Barbados to excel.
Among some of the areas which he said the sports ministry intended to look at was funding to construct a new stadium at Waterford. He said also on the agenda was putting together a proposal for Cabinet in relation to a sports policy and how best they could support local athletes, particularly the elite and emerging athletes. He said they would also be looking at how various federations in the island operated.
Lashley also addressed the enhancement of existing facilities and federations such as the National Stadium and the local swimming association.
“The reality about the stadium is that it has been left essentially without any real upgrades for in excess of 30 years and now we are faced with having to completely rebuild the National Stadium.
“It is really no longer relevant in terms of its structure for what we are asking our athletes to do. We have already done the proposal for the new stadium and that would be discussed shortly by Cabinet. We believe that this is something we should put before the Cabinet to ensure that we are on the right path.
“I have asked the National Sports Council to look very seriously at further enhancing how we operate with our federations. I still feel that our federations can become much more professional, I still feel that the way in which we function collectively can be enhanced. The federations have to see themselves as strategic partners with the Government and the Barbados Olympic Association (BOA) so we can plan systematically for what we know has to happen.”
With respect to calls from the swimming association for an Olympic-size pool, Lashley said they were looking at land in St Lucy for this purpose but added it would be a very expensive undertaking. Road tennis was also highlighted by the minister. He said the sport had taken off and the strategic position had been to reignite the country in terms of road tennis and what it meant for Barbados. He said planning was moving ahead to have a world road tennis championship in Barbados in 2016.
Since the recent Monarchs Of The Road Tennis Competition that carried a first prize of $10,000, Lashley said the sport had been on the lips of practically every Barbadian as having a lot of potential. He said there was now a road tennis tournament in practically every community on the island.
Touching on the national sports policy which has been in the works for some time, Lashley said it was extremely necessary for Barbados. He assured the athletes present that the ministry would not go ahead without having the full involvement of all persons in the sports fraternity.
“We will shortly be moving through Barbados in focus groups and I expect you [athletes] to be a part of that discussion, the reason being that we will not go ahead with a draft sports policy without consultation and soliciting your views.
“You are the persons who are at the cutting edge, you are involved in sports along with the administrators, trainers, coaches and we want to hear from you,” he said.
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