Every now and then it's a nice challenge to take a stab at the impossible, like assessing the merits and demerits of the Brian Lara Stadium (and the High Performance Centre) without most readers seeing it through politically-tinted lenses.
I suppose it's inevitable that, in this doltish season leading up to the next general election, those on one side of the floor will seek out every single opportunity to make political capital at the expense of their opponents. And when it comes to that construction site at Tarouba, the proponents of the intended high-tech facility are not offering a watertight defence of a project that still remains unclear to the general public.
As top officials of the Trinidad and Tobago Olympic Committee have emphasised in justifying their endorsement of what will surely be a billion-dollar investment by the time it's over, it is the concept of a fully-functional elite training centre that they support. Whether those responsible for the actual construction will remain loyal to that concept is another matter entirely, and it has to be said that the government of the day isn't exactly covering itself in glory by providing enough information that would make absolute nonsense of all the inflammatory rhetoric that claims the whole thing is a scandalous waste of taxpayers' money, even in the midst of an unprecedented economic windfall.
There can really be no legitimate argument against the wisdom of using some of that oil revenue to provide state-of-the-art facilities that would serve to uplift the overall standard of sporting competition in this country in the long term, while at the same time satisfying the immediate objectives of the country's top performers in their quest to tackle the best in the world without having to rely on training centres abroad.
As TTOC general secretary Brian Lewis correctly explained in a radio programme last Friday night, the unacceptable state of so many of this country's social services and public utilities are not the result of sport being given preference ahead of health and water, so those ills cannot be blamed on the Brian Lara Stadium. In fact, as Lewis emphasised, it is about time that sport, which is at the very core of promoting healthy lifestyles, apart from the glory and international recognition it has brought to this country, be treated as more than just an afterthought.
All of this is well and good except, as Lewis himself acknowledges, the absence, so far, of a thorough and authoritative public relations exercise to sell the idea of the High Performance Centre to an increasingly skeptical public leaves one to wonder if those responsible for the final product will remain true to the original concept or throw up some ratchifee that exposes the whole thing as yet another one of those shameless, ill-fated election-inspired extravaganzas that will remain to haunt us for many years to come as a symbol of obscene excess in a time of plenty.
How is it possible to not be cynical about the project, especially when the prime minister has implied that it can double-up as a tsunami shelter, a statement that must surely qualify as one of the more blatant acts of political desperation that can ever be concocted? Why should the word of the planners hold much currency, especially after another justification (a warm-up venue for Cricket World Cup matches) came to nothing?
It is the boldfacedness and totally unjustifiable bravado that rankles, like when UDECOTT officials insisted, even after the skeletal Brian Lara Stadium was eliminated from the venue list by the ICC, that the facility would be ready for the World Cup. Everyone with even a millilitre of integrity then knew that was impossible, and now the latest guesstimate advises that completion will be sometime next year.
At a time when we should be saturated with substance and comprehensive, detailed plans that will explain how this High Performance Centre will work in integrating existing facilities around the country, there is apparently more baseless PR in the offing with officials apparently trying to stress that the venue is actually located in Palmyra, and not Tarouba, as if it would make any difference if we woke up tomorrow morning and realised that it was actually in Hololo.
A couple weeks ago, a former freelance colleague during my days at the Guardian, responding to a negative comment I made about the Brian Lara Stadium, called to enlighten me as to what the facility was all about. I didn't have the time to listen, and anyway, if the revelations about it being modelled after the Australian Institute of Sport or similar centres in the United Arab Emirates or Qatar or wherever are so absolutely compelling, why is it being kept a secret?
Even with the predictable cost overruns and the ludicrous explanations offered, many in the sporting fraternity would still back the whole expensive exercise if they could be convinced that, after all is said and done, Trinidad and Tobago will have a state-of-the-art training facility, properly staffed and maintained, that will give our sportsmen and women a potentially decisive edge, and the country cause for much celebration for many years to come.
However, in the absence of this most obvious of defences to a heavily-criticised project, it is only natural to assume that the gap between the impressive concept of a few years ago and the eventual reality (whenever it materialises) is much wider than the highway separating Marabella from Tarouba-or Palmyra if you prefer.