Powell’s committed to Olympic success

The world’s sporting gaze will be focused on Beijing for the next Olympic Games in eight months’ time and the Cayman Islands will have at least two competitors.

Hopefully, that number will swell – last time in Athens it was five – and if the Cayman Islands Olympic Committee continues to work as hard as it does, it could be considerably more.

Lori Powell is vice-president of the local Olympic Committee here and the first female on the executive. The president is Donald McLean and the other executives – all voluntary members – are Bernie Bush and Carson Ebanks. A businesswoman, Powell is ensuring that Cayman’s Olympic involvement reaches its full potential which is why the last couple of months she’s been frantically putting together the website.

The website www.caymanolympic.org.ky is now online listing all relevant information of the 22 associations that come under its umbrella. ‘The site is a work in progress and we will be adding information and photos in the coming weeks.

‘I think we’ve done a fantastic job, a huge amount of work. A lot of it is very quiet and behind the scenes. We’re not in the paper every week, giving out a cheque for this and that even though we are in the habit of giving out significant funds to everybody.’

There have been rumours circulating that Cayman’s Olympic Committee is in disarray, its accounts are not up to date and it recently changed its constitution so that the executive could all remain life members. Another one is that it is in danger of losing Olympic status because accounts are not up to date. Powell refutes all that.

‘We redid the constitution recently, updated it and sent it off to the International Olympic Committee for approval,’ she said. ‘We’ve also got the audited accounts up to date and are ready to send them off to the IOC for approval. Our accounts were sent around to all the associations recently and our final audit is with the accountants. We’ve had problems getting the accounts up to date because during Hurricane Ivan all the computers were destroyed. So we’ve had to work very hard to catch up with a lot of things.’

Apart from the CI$40,000 the CIOC gets from the government, it relies on the generosity of corporate sponsorship and funding from Olympic Solidarity based in Switzerland. In June, CI$100,000 was handed over by the Olympic Fundraising Committee by its chairperson Betty Baraud. That money will cover expenses of 101 athletes in qualifying competitions such as Carifta for Beijing.

Canada-born Powell has been pretty much involved in sport her whole life. ‘I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t involved with sport. I come from a strong swimming background. My mother, Irene Watler, was the top female swimmer in Canada for eight years which was something in her day considering there weren’t that many female athletes. She swam in two Olympics, Pan Ams and the Commonwealth Games. She married a Caymanian, Selkirk Watler. We moved here in the late Sixties and I grew up here and we spent the summers in Vancouver. We swam, sailed and played tennis. I swam competitively and later coached.’

Powell has three adult daughters who all swam to a high level, most notably Shauna. Twins Jennifer and Jessica also represented Cayman. Lori was part of the Cayman swimming association for 17 years after Ann Stafford formed it in the mid-Eighties.

‘We’re trying to support all the athletes and associations as much as possible so that they get the opportunity to train and compete so that they can qualify. At the moment we have two qualified – Cydonie Mothersill and Shaune Fraser – and there are a few in swimming and athletics who could qualify, as well as Eddie McLean in shooting.

‘The two Beijing 2008 scholarships the CIOC applied for and got from the IOC were for Cydonie and Shaune. This is the first time Cayman has done this. They each receive US$1,200 a month till the Olympics for preparation in addition to all the other support we give them. For a small territory like Cayman to receive two is quite an accomplishment.’

Meanwhile, McLean is fuming at the negative story circulating. He said: ‘I’d be interested to know where you’re hearing these rumours from. This is absolute, utter nonsense. There is no requirement by the IOC for us to submit audited accounts anyway.

‘It is correct that we don’t have audited accounts. The last audited accounts we had were for 2003. We sort of inherited that in 2005 (after Ivan) and we actually got the accounts prepared by KPMG and what we do have up to 2004 and 2006 has been circulated to all the associations is KPMG prepared by a certified public accountant.

‘Now we’re having some difficulty getting someone to audit them. We’ve been in discussions with Deloitte and they want $20,000 a year and I can’t justify that kind of expenditure. So I’m shopping around for a cheaper rate and that is exactly where we are now. But there’s no misappropriation of funds in any way. I’d be happy to show the accounts.

‘We get funding from the IOC and there is absolutely no danger of us losing Olympic status whatsoever. This is the first time I’ve even heard of this. A total fabrication. We’re very transparent. We have not applied for any government funds since 2004 but we haven’t really needed to and one of the reasons is because we don’t have audited accounts to present to them.’