By Neto Baptiste
Former United Progressive Party (UPP) senator and former MP for the All Saints East & St Luke Constituency, Chester Hughes, believes the country has failed to properly utilise iconic former West Indies captain and National Hero, Sir Vivian Richards, in pushing the country’s sports tourism potential.
Hughes, who is also president of the Grenades Football Club, said that although the government of the day would have failed to capitalise on funds raised through the Citizenship by Investment Programme (CIP) in the area of sports and sports infrastructure, it has failed to involve the country’s most internationally renowned sporting figure in an efficient manner.
“I don’t think sports should work without tourism because sports is traveling and tourism, and in that way, we could go into a different dimension of tourism that has not been tapped into in any serious way, which is sports tourism. This was a pet peeve of the late Fitzroy Brann and we have not tapped into it,” he said.
“We have Sir Vivian Richards who is one of our most celebrated athletes in Antigua and Barbuda and we are under-utilising his abilities, in my view, with regards to sports. We use them a lot for tourism, but for the aspect of sport tourism and tours, we don’t utilize our athletes enough,” Hughes added.
The former basketball association head however said that without the adequate infrastructural requirement in place, the country will not benefit from what is a billion-dollar market.
“If we could develop certain facilities in order to have teams come out and train, develop relationships with major sporting bodies and teams around the world so that in the winter times like it is now in certain countries, you take a break then we invite you down for one week,” he said.
“Many times you’d see teams like mine, Arsenal, jump on their jet and gone to Africa, so why can’t we lure them down to the Caribbean by giving them the facilities because some fans travel with teams if they know they are going on a training,” the former MP added.
In December 2002, Sir Viv was chosen by Wisden as the greatest ODI batsman of all time, as well as the third greatest Test batsman of all time, after Sir Don Bradman and Sachin Tendulkar. The Antiguan was voted one of the five Cricketers of the Century by a 100-member panel of experts in 2000, along with Sir Donald Bradman, Sir Garfield Sobers, Sir Jack Hobbs and Shane Warne.
Overall, Sir Viv scored 8,540 runs in 121 Test matches at an average of 50.23, including 24 centuries. As a captain, he won 27 of 50 Test matches and lost only 8. He also scored nearly 7,000 runs in One Day Internationals and more than 36,000 in first-class cricket.