|$4M men |
By SEAN DOUGLAS Tuesday, September 9 2008
PRIME Minister Patrick Manning yesterday pledged $4 million in rewards to Trinidad and Tobago’s Olympic silver medallists, at a jubilant celebration held outside the Eric Williams Financial Complex, St Vincent Street, Port-of-Spain.
He said all five champions who ran in the qualifying rounds and finals of the 4x100 metres relay, Richard Thompson, Marc Burns, Emmanuel Callender, Keston Bledman, and Aaron Armstrong, are each to receive $250,000 worth of units in the Unit Trust Corporation of Trinidad and Tobago (UTC) and $500,000 in cash, with Thompson getting an additional $250,000 for his silver medal in the 100 metres sprint.
“We believe Richard Thompson won the two silver medals and he is the million-dollar man. He will get an additional $250,000, for a total of $1 million from the Government and people of Trinidad and Tobago”.
Manning said the rewards, decided last Thursday by Cabinet, could in no way recompense the athletes for their efforts, but was a small way to recognise the achievements and what it meant for this country making its way in a hostile world.
“The Cabinet also decided that the Central Bank would take steps to provide financial advice and counselling for the honourable gentlemen. That money must not be wasted.”
He then teased the audience to raise but then dashed hopes of a public holiday, by saying: “We also decided that we will party late tonight, but not too late to be at work at eight o’clock tomorrow morning.” Manning also noted that the champions are also due to receive the Chaconia Gold Medal today at a special investiture ceremony hosted by President George Maxwell Richards.
Manning praised the athletes for having made the name of Trinidad and Tobago known in every nook and cranny throughout the world by their Olympic efforts.
He said the athletes and others who possess talent can be assured of the Government’s support. He noted: “The achievements are a very important milestone on the way to developed country status.”
Manning said the only other times he had seen such an up-welling of national pride were after Hasely Crawford’s gold medal in the 100 metres at the 1976 Montreal Olympics and in 2006 when the Soca Warriors held Sweden to a draw in the World Cup in Germany.
Manning, however, couldn’t resist quoting a political slogan from his ruling PNM’s campaign in the last general elections, to now describe the performance of the Olympic medallists, declaring: “They beat them in the East, they beat them in the West, they beat them in the North and they beat them in the South!”
After Manning’s seven-minute speech, the athletes came on-stage in a blaze of fireworks and confetti.
Thompson told the crowd it was an honour to get the Chaconia Gold medal.
Likely referring to the financial rewards, he declared: “We are certainly satisfied with what has been given to us, and we know it will go a long way. More importantly though, I would like to stress the importance of what we do track and field for. We do it for the love of the sport and not to be given anything in particular by anyone. We are not asking for anything from anyone or the Government. We certainly do appreciate it however.”
He recalled the pride and joy of wearing red, white and black to represent TT at the highest level.
“On the 16 and 22 of August I must admit, and I’m sure these other guys can admit as well, that it was the greatest feeling in my entire life, winning those two silver medals.” He promised more, saying: “We look forward to next year, 2009, at the world championship games and we hope to change those two silver medals into gold medals. More importantly, London 2012 Olympics we plan to be the dominant force like Jamaica was this year.”
Thompson recalled that when abroad it had been a blessing to read newspapers such as Newsday online to see people celebrating TT’s Olympic achievements rather than reading news about violent crime. “We look forward to bringing that positive vibe into Trinidad and Tobago, as long as we do track and field.”