By Neto Baptiste
Former prime minister, Sir Lester Bird, believes the country missed an opportunity to erect an international track & field facility when it entered into an agreement with the People’s Republic of China, back in the early 2000s, to construct the Vivian Richards Cricket Ground ahead of the 2007 ICC Cricket World Cup.
“I think it is disgraceful that we didn’t go up by the Viv Richards stadium because that’s what Keith Mitchell in Grenada did. He put the two in terms of cricket and track & field back to back and made the Chinese build it; we should have done the same thing. He lost his, at first, because of Hurricane Ivan that blew away all that down there, but you think Mitchell didn’t proceed? He went back to the Chinese and now he is holding Carifta and now he is holding Test matches,” he said.
Sir Lester, a former national track & field athlete, says the then government should have followed Grenada’s lead and negotiate for the erection of a track at the North Sound facility as part of the stadium deal.
“We need now to go and take that property west of Vivian Richards stadium or the property across the road and build, not what’s happening there at Old Pahram Road [YASCO] because that can’t really do benefit to Antigua. They talking a lot about the Mondo track being finished and so on but that can’t hold any international [meet]. Look at the stadium the Bahamas built for Tommy Robinson,” the former PM said.
Sir Lester, a National Hero, admitted that his administration could have also done more for the sport during his reign as the country’s leader.
“I was not the minister of sports and I am not making any excuses but the reality is that we should have gone ahead and we can’t look backwards but let us move forward and I don’t think that track up there, the top field for grammar school (AGS) is sufficient,” he said.
Sir Lester won a bronze medal in the long jump at the 1959 Pan American Games in Chicago while representing the British West Indies.
He attended the University of Michigan, where he was an All-American long jumper in 1960 and graduated in 1962.