Moves are afoot by the main opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) to get the reconstructed athletics and football stadium at Queen’s Park named after the island’s lone Olympic Gold Medalist, Kirani James.
Congress addressed the issue in light of a sign that was recently posted on the stadium identifying it as “Grenada Athletic Stadium.”
The People’s Republic of China did the reconstruction work on the sporting facility now into its final stages.
NDC is planning to get thousands of Grenadians to sign onto a petition to submit to the Keith Mitchell-led ruling New National Party (NNP) administration in St. George’s to name the stadium after James who is called locally as “The Jaguar”.
In September 2012, former Prime Minister Tillman Thomas who was in charge of a Congress government made a verbal declaration that the stadium would be named after James.
The star athlete won the 400M at the World Championships in 2011, and is the reigning Olympic Champion, having won the 400M in 2012 in London, England.
Speaking at a public meeting held by NDC at Cafe, St. Andrew’s, the party’s Deputy Chairman, Glen Noel announced that the party intends to circulate a petition to seek the support of the people requesting that the stadium be named after the star athlete.
He said NDC is seeking to have 20,000 people sign the petition to demand that the stadium be named after James.
Noel indicated that countries around the world are now recognising their “heroes” by naming significant buildings after them.
He indicated that in Trinidad and Tobago, a football and track and field stadium is named after Hasley Crawford who won the 100M at the Montreal Olympics in 1976, and in St. Kitts the stadium there is named after its national athlete, Kim Collins.
Former Sports Minister, Patrick Simmons who also addressed the gathering, reiterated his claim that all of the necessary groundwork for the reconstruction of the athletic stadium was done by NDC when in government.
Simmons provided the meeting with a historic overview of the stadium project since he said when NDC took office in 2008, it met only a document that detailed a proposal for the reconstruction of the stadium.
Simmons said that on four different occasions, he, along with four different Permanent Secretaries, along with then Policy Advisor in the Ministry of Sports, Kenrick Fullerton visited the Chinese Embassy to hold discussions surrounding the reconstruction of the stadium.
According to the ex-government minister, the Chinese Ambassador at the time, Zhang Wan Hai, did not accept the proposal that they had inherited.
Simmons said that in 2009 another proposal was prepared by the Tillman Thomas-led government seeking diversion of some of the funds for the housing project towards the stadium and the resident Chinese Ambassador accepted it.
The former Sports Minister indicated that in December 2012 a technical team headed by Co-ordinator of Sports, Conrad Francis travelled to China to sign off on a new design for the athletic and football stadium.
“The only thing that the NNP had to do in terms of the reconstruction of the stadium was to turn the sod. So when the current Minister for Sports (Emmalin Pierre) speaks to the National Stadium and doing like the National Stadium is a project of the NNP… it is just lies and more lies, and they continue to lie. This is not so, this is not the truth. That project is a project of the NDC,” he said.
Like Noel, Simmons warned that NDC is prepared to struggle to have the declaration made by former Prime Minister on naming the stadium after Kirani be upheld.
“After what Kirani James would have done for this country in this short period of time, we would have to struggle to ensure that the stadium is named after him,” Simmons said.
“I am asking our Prime Minister (Dr. Keith Mitchell) why he is finding it so difficult … to name the stadium after Kirani James?” he asked.
The stadium is expected to be opened in early 2016.