Members of the two Trinidad and Tobago Olympic bronze medal relay-winning teams were yesterday awarded sums of $300,000 each by Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar. The Prime Minister held a reception at the Diplomatic Centre, St Ann's where the announcements were made.
Present were athletes, members of the diplomatic core, and several members of parliament.
There, swimmer George Bovell III was also specially honoured for his performances at the 2004 Olympics in Athens and awarded the sum of $300,000 as well. The National Aquatic Centre which will be built in Couva will also be named the George Bovell 111 Aquatic Centre.
However, there were no direct cash rewards for other members of the 2012 Olympic team, who will instead receive medals of honour tomorrow when another similar reception is held by President George Maxwell Richards at the Knowsley building. In announcing the gift to Bovell, the Prime Minister said it was a similar initiative to what was done with 1976 Olympic gold medallist Hasely Crawford by the UNC Government in 1998 when she was a Member of Parliament..
"George Bovell, who won a bronze medal in the 200m individual medley in Athens was never rewarded by the former PNM regime for earning the country its first and only Olympics swim medal," Persad-Bissessar said.
"Mr Bovell, on behalf of the Government and people of Trinidad and Tobago, we humbly apologise for the disregard and disrespect meted out to you by the previous regime."
Yesterday, Persad-Bissessar also announced the launch of the National Excellence In Sport for Trinidad and Tobago (NESTT) development programme, catering to young athletes. The Prime Minister also promised that in the next six years, the Government will construct academies in all 41 constituencies to facilitate the training and education of the country's best young athletes.
The Prime Minister said strong consideration was being given to the establishment of national academic scholarships for accomplished elite student athletes, which will allow them to go to the school of their choice and select sport-specific coaches.
"This programme will complement the existing Elite Athlete Programme, which offers a maximum $250,000 to cover medical, nutritional, travel, and training expenses for athletes who are among the top 40 in the world in their sporting discipline," Persad-Bisessar said.
Also present yesterday was Sport Minister Anil Roberts who praised the Olympians for making the country proud.
Roberts, who was Bovell's coach in London said: "It was the greatest performance in our history at the Olympic Games...even before the final day."