February 23 was a landmark date for Grenada as thousands flocked into Queen’s Park last Saturday to witness the key to the newly constructed Athletics and Football Stadium officially handed over to Grenada by the People’s Republic of China.
One of the star attractions at the event was Grenada’s first and only Olympic gold medalist, Kirani James who performed the ceremonial lighting of the torch.
The facility was handed over after 25 months of construction by China State Construction Engineering Company.
In an address to mark the occasion, Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell said that the stadium has enormous significance for the country as there are many opportunities that lie ahead.
“It is opening up enormous opportunities to host international sporting events, not only cricket as we have done before but athletics and football”, he told a packed stadium crown.
“It means also the tourism product will be enhanced – more jobs, more services, more opportunities for the people of Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique,” he said.
According to PM Mitchell, the ceremonial handing over of the Stadium is a testimony to the bonds of friendship between Grenada and China.
Minister for Youth, Sports and Religious Affairs, Emmalin Pierre described the historic occasion as a dream for every athlete and spoke about how she is very happy that the New National Party (NNP) government made that dream a reality.
“As we gather today as a people to receive the very wonderful gift from the government and people of the People’s Republic of China, we cannot just stop to admire this top class facility, we also have to look ahead and the road ahead of us.
“We must cherish this gift, we must take good care of this facility, we must use it to the fullest. It must serve therefore as a motivator to go higher, to reach further, and to go to the next level as we strive for excellence in sports.
Minister Pierre stated that this new facility must not be considered to be business as usual in sports on the island.
“It has to be the beginning of a cultural change in the way we do business in sports. Grenada will soon be a desired sports tourism destination, one where people throughout the world would want to visit,” she said.
Chinese Ambassador to Grenada, Madam Ou Boqian praised Dr Mitchell for the efforts he placed in making the Stadium a reality.
She said: “Dr. The Right Hon Keith Mitchell, we have talked about (the) project on many occasions. You have reiterated to me on many occasions, we remind each other of the significance and importance of a Stadium to the people of Grenada and social and economic development of the country. Long before it was completed you were thinking ahead and talking about the functions, the events that we may have after this Stadium is completed”.
In 2005, Prime Minister Mitchell took the decision to dump the Republic of China (ROC) on Taiwan and to recognize the Chinese on the Mainland.
He traveled to Beijing to sign an agreement that provided for Chinese assistance in building low-income houses for Grenadians, scholarships, assistance in agriculture and the rebuilding of the cricket stadium after it was badly damaged by Hurricane Ivan in September 2004.
The completion of the Athletic and Football Stadium makes way for the hosting of the CONCACAF Women’s U-17 Championship due to be held from March 10-13 and the CARIFTA 2016 Games scheduled for March 26-28.