The sports facilities in Grand Cayman have undergone dramatic changes, post Ivan. In the past year significant work has been done on much of the sports infrastructure and within a few weeks some will reopen to the public all spanking new and ready for international competition.
The plaudits go to the Honourable Alden McNee McLaughlin, Minister of Sport and Education in the who has overseen the work. There has some critics but mostly the public is supportive of what McLaughlin has done on behalf of the People’s Progressive Movement, a party he co-founded with leader Kurt Tibbetts.
The nature of politics is that not all can be 100 per cent satisfied but McLaughlin is satisfied with how things have gone since Ivan obliterated the island in 2004.
‘I think we’ve done well in getting the physical plan back up,’ says McLaughlin. ‘It’s not perfect yet. A lot of places are still not open. They did open but closed for improvements. The annexe field and the one at Ed Bush are nearing completion. I reckon in another month they’ll be operational.
‘Truman Bodden will be ready for the big game against Bermuda on 30 March. People have asked if it will be ready and playable. Well it will be. I was there yesterday, looking at it and with two weeks to go it will be playable – but not perfect.
‘The rest of the facilities will be perfect. Renovations have gone really well. Just clean up to do now, painting. Bodden Town is almost ready. We’ll be putting in proper irrigation. We’re using really good grass. It’s a hybrid of the Bermudan’s, called Celebration.
‘As soon as we get Bodden Town, George Town and Ed Bush back operational we’ll then close North Side and East End and re-do those as well.’
It’s Olympic year and the track athletes could do with a decent place to train and compete. McLaughlin promises that that too is almost complete.
‘The Truman Bodden track will be finished in another week, I believe and then there’s a 30 day curing period before they apply their acrylic surface, whatever it is, of which the track is made. I understand that will take about two weeks. So by the end of April, early May, it will be operational.’
The public will definitely be excluded from the track, despite the furore. ‘Yes, that’s a step I’ve firmly taken. I’ve said more than once that the George Hicks field is going to be that alternative.
‘We’re putting in lighting, a track over 500 yards long so that people can walk or run, whatever they want to do. And then we’ll have two football fields, one a regular size and a smaller one and also a practice wicket and nets for cricket. We’re going to put up some stands so people can actually watch in comfort.
‘We’re lighting the basketball pitch as well. That’s going to be a true community and sporting recreation area.’
We’re sitting in his spacious office in Cardinal Avenue, George Town. McLaughlin’s just come from a televised Legislative Assembly sitting. He thrives on hard work.
McLaughlin, 46, hopes the new track will attract world class athletes here. He is not sure when that will happen though. ‘You’re probably better off talking to Delroy Murray (president of the athletics association) or one of the coaches. I’m not directly involved in that. The purpose of Government is to support, encourage, provide facilities and so forth. The actual organization of who plays football, which track people come, I leave that to the organizations.
‘I have been talking to Delroy about how we properly open the Truman Bodden complex. While football is a feature of it, the principle purpose of that is track and field and we want to have a proper opening of it and want to celebrate that with some meet or other. The CIAA is very supportive of that idea.
‘A couple of ideas I have for the track is that we should celebrate the achievements of our athletes, like Cydonie Mothersill and Kareem Streete-Thompson. They deserve a permanent acknowledgement and celebration of what they’ve done. One of things we don’t do in this country is to celebrate the achievements of our people.
‘Cayman is a very conservative society and it is a difficult cultural characteristic to shed. We sort of look in awe at people who blow their own trumpets. But it’s important from an inspirational standpoint and for a sense of national pride and identity that we do celebrate the achievement of our people. That’s what national heroes day is about and why I feel so strongly about it.
‘It’s part of my plan to use these facilities and venues that we have to put on display the achievements of our swimmers, footballers, track stars… whatever the achievement is.’
Cayman has three Olympians qualified for Beijing in August – Mothersill and swimming brothers Shaune and Brett. Sprinter Tyrell Cuffy is likely to qualify too.
McLaughlin intends to find time to make the 10,000 mile trek to watch them. ‘I’m watching very keenly as the various athletes in different sports qualify. I’m still hoping to get a couple more but I’m hoping to get down to Beijing myself and stand there and share the honour. It’s a long way to go, I’m very busy but I want to see what I can do.’