Former Sports Minister Patrick Simmons is determined to see the National Football and Athletic Stadium, now under reconstruction by the People’s Republic of China (PRC) be named after Grenada’s lone Olympic Gold Medallist, Kirani James.
Known locally as the Jaguar, James brought fame to Grenada when he secured Gold in the 400m final at the 2012 London Olympic Games.
He has been dominating the Men’s 400m race at the start of the 2015 Diamond League track and field meets.
The world class athlete who is from Gouyave, St. John’s, registered his latest victory on May 30 when he powered his win at the Diamond League meet in Oregon with a winning time of 43.95 seconds.
Simmons told a radio talk show programme that after having had the opportunity of witnessing James winning the Men’s 400m at the Olympic Games alongside members of Grenada Olympic Committee, he recommended to then Prime Minister, Tillman Thomas and other Cabinet colleagues that every effort should be made after the reconstruction of the National Stadium to name the facility after the Olympic Gold Medallist.
According to Simmons, he did some research to see how national athletes are treated when they perform exceptionally well and concluded that due to James’ outstanding achievement, it would be wise to name the stadium after the star Athlete.
The former Sports Minister said he is getting the feeling that the current Keith Mitchell-led administration is not inclined to proceed with the earlier Cabinet decision to name the stadium after James.
“I will be watching very closely, and if it means that I’ll have to have a placard alone and stand in front of the National Stadium calling upon the government and making it internationally known that the National Stadium must be named after Kirani James, I will do it,” he said.
The King of the 400m will next compete at the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) World Challenge in Morocco on June 14, and the Paris Diamond League on July 4 before the World Championships in Beijing, China in August.
Simmons also dismissed claims that the former Congress government had no interest in rebuilding the stadium that was badly damaged by Hurricane Ivan in 2004.
He said a policy decision was taken by the then government to engage the Government of China to assist with the reconstruction of the football and athletic stadium.
He referred to a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that was in place for the construction of low income houses at Mont Rush and Frequente in St. George’s, and at Soubise, St. Andrew’s.
According to the ex-Sports Minister, the position taken by the Chinese at the time was that they would not undertake two major projects on the island at the same time.
Simmons said after the Tillman Thomas-led Cabinet deliberated on the position adopted by Beijing, it was decided then that the Chinese would be asked to allocate some of the funding they had for the housing project to be pumped into the construction of the National Stadium.
He spoke of a plan that was put in place for him to travel to China in 2012 to sign off on the reconstruction of the National Stadium but this did not materialise, and instead he was represented at the event by the Coordinator of Sports, Conrad Francis.
“I am not worried when the present administration will claim that the whole effort of constructing the National Stadium, they are the ones to be praised for it,” he said.
The former Sports Minister also made an appeal to the Mitchell government to implement the National Sports Policy that was worked upon by the former Congress regime.
He said he is troubled that after so much effort and resources were put into the formulation of the Sports Policy, the current administration appears very reluctant to continue with its implementation.
Simmons noted that when the Bill was tabled in Parliament, Dr. Mitchell who was at the time Leader of the Opposition gave full support to the initiative.
“I think it is only fitting that we should witness now the continued implementation of that particular policy,” he said.