Lovie Santana

Trinidad and Tobago Olympic Committee (TTOC) president Brian Lewis, right, and Team TTO chef de mission for the July 23 - August 8 Tokyo Olympic Games, Lovie Santana, toast over some commemorative Team TTO cupcakes. —Photo: ROBERT TAYLOR

TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO OLYMPIC COMMITTEE (TTOC) president Brian Lewis requested the support of cynics to support Team TTO as the TTOC marked the 100-day countdown to the July 28-August 8 Tokyo Olympic Games, yesterday.

At the Olympic House yesterday, Lewis said critics of the national outfit were projecting their fear onto the athletes with their doubts about the wisdom of still staging the Tokyo 2020 Games and their concerns over the TTOC’s policy of allowing athletes the choice to determine if they would like to be vaccinated or not.

The Trinidad and Tobago Commonwealth Games Association (TTCGA) president added that the TTOC was trusting and following the science, data and guidelines set forth by the World Health Organisation (WHO), the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO), Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA), the IOC and their own medical team.

This 100-day countdown milestone, Lewis said, marked the point of no return. “We can’t allow fear to paralyse us.” said Lewis. “But what we have to continue doing now...is to stay focused. The unwavering and indomitable spirit. The distractions are many. We are at the point where you either for us or against us, because Team TTO cannot be distracted.”

Lewis said many in this generation were unaware of the cancellation of the Olympic Games during World Wars I and II, with this Tokyo Games being the first to be rescheduled in Olympic history. “The image we give to the world, our commitment to excellence notwithstanding the challenges, will be on display,” he added.

Lewis pointed out that local athletes had faced incredible and unprecedented challenges due to the Covid-19 pandemic. “Why is it that as a nation, as a people, we can’t rally around our youth and young people that will be donning the Red, White and Black to go to Tokyo?” asked Lewis, while referring to the theme of the Team TTO commemorative brochure “United Against Universal Adversity”. “Why? Why is it that we are so comfortable and easy to focus on the negatives? To project our individual and collective fears on our youth and young people... Haven’t they undergone enough? Or is it that sport and Team TTO is not important as all the other things that have gone on during Covid-19 season?”

Without specifying any action, Lewis said people in the country had found an excuse to turn a blind eye to conducting other activities during the Covid-19. “But give our youth a chance. Give them a chance. I am pleading with this country. I am pleading with all of you, I am pleading with corporate T&T, I am pleading with whoever. Give us a break, give us a break. Take your fears about Covid-19 and deal with it,” said Lewis, reiterating the TTOC was trusting the science in consultation with key stakeholders like the Ministry of Sport and Community Development, Ministry of Health and Ministry of National Security.

Lewis reaffirmed the TTOC will put in place the required protocols that are aimed at taking Team TTO to Tokyo2020 safely and with their health as a top priority.

“But duty calls. Duty calls because we are all committed to support our young people who have the ambition every time they don the Red, White and Black; they go for gold; because you know that when they are successful all of you will dance and it will have a problem to maintain the Covid-19 protocols if or when that steelpan anthem plays in Tokyo,” Lewis asserted. “...All I ask is duty calls. Team TTO is answering the call to represent this twin-island Republic at a time when our country need positivity and good news.”

Minister of Sport Shamfa Cudjoe said the countdown was a great opportunity to move on. “I want to encourage our athletes to continue to train, continue to reach for the stars,” Cudjoe said, adding the TTOC, the MoS and the government stood in firm support.

Cudjoe also said the MoS had already started the distribution of funds to athletes headed to Japan and that Cabinet had passed a note approving funding of over $2-million to the TTOC for their Tokyo2020 preparations.

“So this is an exciting time not only for T&T but for the rest of the world as we show the world what athletes are really made of; what we and sport enthusiasts and human beings are made of. It’s about strength, it’s about resilience. It’s about keeping hope alive and seeing the light in all this darkness,” said Cudjoe.

TTOC secretary general, Annette Knott, said the TTOC had assembled a competent team to oversee the safe participation of Team TTO athletes. “We know that this is going to be one of the toughest Games in terms of logistics. But I’m confident that the team that is going to the Olympics is a team that has had so many years of experience. I would really like to endorse Ms Lovie Santana (chef de mission)...therefore we are confident that things will work; things will happen. We will be safe and that all the athletes that go to the Games will surely have the best conditions to perform,” said Knott.

Santana related that the IOC will issue its update to its Playbook -- that deals with the safety and health procedures for the conduct of the Games -- later this month. “But despite a disrupted training and competition calendar/schedule, our athletes have demonstrated an indomitable spirit to ensure that not even a global pandemic can prevent them from representing their countries and realising their lofty sporting goals.”

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