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  • Lewis Urges CANOC Innovation


    (ATR) Brian Lewis tells Around the Rings he will work to get past “traditional thinking and methods” after being re-elected president of the Caribbean Association of National Olympic Committees.

    Brian Lewis on the sidelines of the 2018 Youth Olympic Games (ATR)
    Lewis, President of the Trinidad and Tobago Olympic Committee, was elected to a full four-year term today. He told ATR that he was reluctant to run for the position, but was persuaded to do so to continue the “transformation and modernization” of the organization after being elected to finish out the last four-year term.

    “Given that this is my first full term, [my] mandate would be to build on the foundation laid down by Steve Stoute,” Lewis said in an email. “CANOC will be more self-confident in marketing our athletes so that our athletes can better leverage their successes from a commercial perspective. CANOC will harness our unity. We are doing more to assist Haiti through sport and the Olympic movement.”

    Priorities for the organization for the next four years will be commercial independence, staging a successful 2021 Caribbean Games, and courting the Commonwealth Youth Games. More pressing, is to resolve issues with Panam Sports not recognizing associate members, gender equality in CANOC and safeguarding athletes against abuse, Lewis says.

    In addition to Lewis, CANOC elected Keith Joseph, from St. Vincent and the Grenadines, as secretary general, and Alphonso Bridgewater, from St. Kitts and Nevis, as first Vice President. Ytannia Wiggins, from Barbados, and Alain Soreze, from Guadeloupe, were chosen as executive members. Both treasurer and second vice president remain open on the CANOC board, since there were no nominations submitted.

    The executive will “consider all options including female options in the interim” until elections are held next year, Lewis said. After his four-year term is complete, Lewis said he hopes that there is a female candidate elected to succeed him, but work needs to be done to ensure that.

    “In my advocacy and push for gender equality, diversity, and inclusion, it is not about tokenism or reverse discrimination,” Lewis said. “It is about ensuring the door isn’t shut for female candidates who have the required skill set and qualifications.”

    Despite the outstanding issue of associate members, Lewis says that relations between CANOC and Panam Sports are positive.

    “I am looking forward to even greater improvement [in relations],” Lewis said. “President Ilic is genuine and honest and fair minded. There are two areas that are of concern and need to be addressed: the matter of associate members and greater transparency and diversity in the hiring practices of Panam Sports.”

    The Caribbean was decimated by two major natural disasters in 2017 and 2018, Hurricanes Irma and Maria, and a major earthquake in Haiti. Lewis said that the region has “overcome colonization and slavery” and its resiliency will overcome these disasters. After receiving help from the IOC and Panam Sports in the wake of Maria, “Haiti requires attention”.

    Lewis wants many NOCs in the region to let go of traditional thinking and embrace innovation to continue the modernization effort. That includes working to become more financially self-reliant, instead of solidarity grants and Panam Sports funding, which constitutes CANOC’s entire budget.

    “To do more for our athletes requires CANOC to create diversified revenue generation streams,” Lewis said. “We have to explore ways to build the commercial portfolios and the value of the commercial and marketing aspects. We have to create a sustainable sport industry in the Caribbean; we can’t perpetuate the plantation model.”

    Written by Aaron Bauer

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