According to Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture Lanisha Rolle in her contribution to the 2020-2021 national budget in the House of Assembly last month, elite athletes won’t be impacted by the proposed reduction in the subvention for the current cycle.
However, Bahamas Olympic Committee (BOC) President Romell Knowles is not convinced, stating that the contrary appears to be the case. Subvention to athletes for the current period is set at $1,076,920, down from $1,346,150 for the 2019-2020 fiscal period – a cut of 20 percent, almost $300,000.
Knowles said that the BOC is very concerned.
“This is the Olympic period. For four years, athletes would have been preparing for competition to represent The Bahamas at the most prestigious sporting event in the world – the Olympics. The advent of the coronavirus has caused great hardships in the preparation for the 2020 Olympics which is now pushed back to 2021 so these athletes really can’t afford any reduction in subvention,” said Knowles. “With the advent of the coronavirus, I suspect that athletes’ cost escalated for an additional year, and that includes the cost of nutrients, training costs, coaching costs, rent, travel and other costs associated with their preparation for the games. Becoming an Olympian is the most exciting and exhilarating reward for any athlete. To have in a very insensitive way, without any consultation, reduce the budget for subvention, is of great concern.”
The postponed Olympics are now set for July 23 to August 8, 2021, still in Tokyo, Japan. Knowles said the BOC supports the joint decision of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), the government of Japan, Metropolitan Tokyo and the local organizing committee of the games (TOCOG), to postpone the Olympics to next year given the science of the COVID-19 pandemic. The deadly coronavirus is still rampant throughout the world, with over 10 million confirmed cases.
“It is the best decision at the time considering health concerns for the athletes and patrons,” said Knowles. “It is still our hope that we can have an audience with the Office of the Prime Minister or the Ministry of Finance to see how best we can come to an agreement where the athletes in this Olympic cycle are not drastically affected. We have written the ministry and have had pertinent conversations with the permanent secretary about our concerns. The Bahamas has a rich history in sports, particularly at the Olympic Games. We make an appeal to the government of The Bahamas to reconsider the reduction to subvention. We want to assist the athletes in these most difficult times and not hinder their ability to represent The Bahamas on the world’s biggest stage for sports – the Olympics.”
The national budget passed in the upper and lower houses of Parliament last Monday, and the new budget cycle starts today. According to reports, University of The Bahamas (UB) Athletics Director Kimberley Rolle has been charged with overseeing a committee that will review policy and procedural measures as it relates to subvention, among other items under the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture’s purview. When contacted yesterday, Rolle said she is not at liberty to speak to the matter at the moment considering that the committee has yet to be formed and there is no start date as to the commencement of their work.
Minister Rolle has said that they do not intend to ignore or neglect their commitment to deserving Bahamian athletes, and that sports remains a priority item of the current central administration. She said they will continue to provide assistance to deserving Bahamian athletes through the various sporting federations for them to successfully compete in international meets.
The minister said that no active athlete approved for subvention would be affected by the adjustments. However, she stated, where an athlete is not performing in accordance with standard policy, the usual adjustments will be applied as recommended by the Department of Sports and through consultation with the respective federations.
On the contrary, BOC President Knowles said he understands that the cuts affect primarily developing athletes – those at the lower tier of government subvention – and he is asking the government to reconsider the cut across the board and also to reconsider the reduction in federation grants.
The sports ministry, on the whole, was one of the hardest hit in the budget allocation, suffering more than a $5 million reduction.