Sports — 18 January 2013

A visiting delegation from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) held a press conference this evening at the office of the Belize Olympic and Commonwealth Games Association (our National Olympic Committee or NOC) at the corner of Albert and Prince Streets where they heard comments and questions from media representatives present.

Members of the delegation, Ms. Joanna Zipser-Graves, Olympic Solidarity’s Manager for the Americas; Mr. Richard Peterkin, IOC Member; and Mr. Nills Holmegaard, IOC Project Officer, reportedly met earlier today with representatives of various sports federations in Belize as well as with the Minister of Sports, and also had a chance to visit the on-going construction at the Marion Jones Sports Complex.

This is the IOC delegation’s first visit to Belize, and Mr. Peterkin said his friend, Belize’s NOC President Ned Pitts had informed him of his intention to hold elections, as he has not been well lately. Elections are scheduled for February 16, at which a new executive will be charged with managing the affairs of the Belize Olympic Association’s affairs for the next four years. The IOC delegation sees their role as important at this time to help “manage the period of change” anticipated following next month’s elections and to “discuss the Programme Guide for the 2013-2016 Quadrennial Plan.”

Ms. Graves noted that according to IOC rules, national Olympic committees (NOC’s) should hold elections every four years; but Belize, like some other NOC’s, has not held elections in a long time. Because the posts are voluntary, there has been a tendency in the past for those elected to overlook this important procedure. The IOC sees the media as playing an important role to ensure that the situation is not repeated, since IOC members use media reports to follow local events in member countries . (Our sources say the last Belize Olympic Committee election was held sometime in the 1970’s.)

Mr. Peterkin admitted that in the past Belize has not been aggressively accessing the many opportunities available for project assistance from the IOC. Presently, the Belize Olympic Committee receives annually US $40,000.00 for office rental and administration, and the bulk of the funds, another US $166,000.00 for assisting athletes’ participation in international competitions. He said that the IOC is here to assist the Olympic Committee in managing the period of change anticipated following next month’s elections, with a view towards being more proactive in accessing additional project funds that the IOC has allocated, to the tune of as much as US $1,000,000.00 per annum to each NOC. As long as acceptable projects are presented, with proper follow up reports and accounting, there is no reason why Belize cannot significantly benefit from more assistance from the IOC.

But, first things first; and the sporting community is no doubt looking forward to a rejuvenated Belize Olympic Association executive following next month’s elections.

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