PUBLIC BANNED FROM EXERCISING
The Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva has been closed to members of the public while safety and security measures at the adjoining National Aquatic Centre and Cycling Velodrome are being reviewed.
Scores of people use the facility to exercise but for now only those who are members of the gym on the compound are being allowed to utilise the compound.
Chairman of the Sport Company of Trinidad and Tobago (SporTT) Dinanath Ramnarine told the T&T Guardian that the closure of the facility to the public for exercise purposes has nothing to do with the audit now being conducted. Rather, he said it was to protect the public.
He said he was concerned that there “were hundreds of millions of dollars of equipment which have to stay outside the facility, the air conditioning needs to be running 24/7 at the Cycling Velodrome and if these things are sabotaged how do we prevent that.”
In addition, he said he was concerned that “people were using the pool unsupervised,” which he said presented its own dangers. He said the fear is that the pool has a “15-foot board for diving and the depth is 15 feet, if somebody decides to jump and drowns who will be responsible?”
But the decision to close the facility to the public, who use it daily to walk and run as part of their exercise routines, is not sitting well with the users and Member of Parliament for Couva South Rudranath Indarsingh.
The T&T Guardian has been told that residents in Balmain and surrounding communities have been gathering signatures on a petition which has been sent to Indarsingh seeking his intervention to get the facility reopened to them.
Contacted on the issue, Indarsingh said he had spoken to Ramnarine and Minister of Sport Darryl Smith about the decision to close the facility from people who utilise it daily to exercise. His position is that “the stadium was built with taxpayers’ money and they should be allowed to use the facility.”
He said those affected “use the periphery of the stadium, it is up to the Sports Company to put security in place to ensure that people do not go near the Aquatic Centre or the Velodrome.”
Indarsingh said because of the crime situation people see the stadium “as a safe zone where they could park their cars and walk in safety.” He said Smith had confirmed to him that “they were reviewing security as it relates to the Cycling Velodrome and the Aquatic Centre.” But he said he told the Minister this was no reason to stop people from utilising the facility.
Indarsingh said while he is willing to give the Minister and SporTT “some time, I continue to monitor the situation and if we don’t get a response I will ask the people to convene a meeting outside the stadium so I could highlight their concerns.”
If there is no resolution, he said: “I will take the close to 500 people who walk at the facility and form a human barricade.”
Based on his discussion with Smith, he said he expected a response within the next two weeks.
But Ramnarine is insisting the decision is in the best interest of all users, “members of the public, athletes and employees.” He said while the security arrangements at the stadium was being reviewed, SporTT had spoken to the Couva police and sought their intervention to remove the trailers and trucks parked along the outer road leading to the stadium.
“They removed them to let the road be free and clear for people to walk.”
In addition, he said they intend to write to T&TEC adjust light poles around the facility so that the lights would on the street. This, he said, is in an effort to ensure the outer perimeters of the stadium will be well lit for those who wanted to use it.
Ramnarine said requests for proposals (RFP) for people who want to provide security for the facilities will be put out at early as next week in the media. He admitted that MTS had taken over security at the facility while the audit into the SporTT was under way because the company which previously providing security is also part of the audit now under way.
Eight people who were suspended when the audit was announced remain on suspension.
Ramnarine said whether the facility is reopened to the public for daily use will be based on the recommendations of security experts.
Ultimately, he said the facility will be used “in a fair and transparent manner.” He assured that this is “not a permanent closure, but reopening will be dependent on the advise of security.”
Told that there appeared to be discrimination in utilisation of the facility, since members of a gym on the compound are allowed to continue walking on the compound, Ramnarine said he would have to look into that because as far as he was aware the gym members are only allowed on the compound “to utilise the gym and not walk.”
While he acknowledged members of the public had grown used to utilising the facility and he understood the concern, he said “safety and security measures being undertaken are for the benefit of everyone. We are taking all precautionary measures.”
Asked whether the decision to stop public use of the facilities under the ambit of the SporTT was limited only to the Ato Boldon Stadium and the National Aquatic Centre, he said “this will be done at all venues throughout the country.”
Those who want to utilise the facilities for games or other events, he said, “will have to go through the proper process, we are not stopping people but exercising control.”
SOURCEL: TT GUARDIAN