Relief for Caribbean Sport Still Weeks Away

(ATR) Regional sport leaders say a clearer picture of the damage is needed before sports relief can be sent.

(ATR) Sport leaders in the Americas tell Around the Rings a clearer picture of the damage in the Caribbean is needed before sports infrastructure relief can be divided among the affected countries.

"We’re not looking at just Puerto Rico, unfortunately we have Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, the British Virgin Islands and U.S. Virgin Islands and even Mexico, Puerto Rico and we know that Cuba was also severely damaged," PanamSports secretary general Ivar Sisniega tells ATR in an exclusive interview. "So we’re looking at six or seven nations that suffered severe damage."

A stream of natural disasters took their toll on the region, beginning with Hurricane Irma and followed by Hurricane Jose, Hurricane Maria and a severe earthquake in Mexico. While much humanitarian relief is necessary for the region to rebuild, Sisniega says PanamSports and other sports organizations are only set up to provide sports infrastructure relief.

At the recent International Olympic Committee Session in Lima, Peru, IOC president Thomas Bach announced a $1 million fund to help rebuild the region, one-third of which will be provided by PanamSports.

"We’re really not set up as a relief agency, there are many other organizations that are better set up for that," Sisniega says. "So the idea behind this special fund is to be able to support and help them reconstruct whatever needs to be done.

"We’ve reached out to them, asked them to give us a listing of what they need. In some cases it’s too early. Puerto Rico is just now getting a grip of what happened. In Dominica and the British Virgin Islands especially, the islands were devastated so it may be another week or two before we have a clear picture."

When asked if $1 million would be enough to help the region regroup, Sisniega said "it may not be."

"There could be a possibility if necessary of trying to get more funds, that’s something we’ll be looking at with Neven [Ilic] in the near future. But we want to get first an idea of what exactly is needed and I don’t think it will be another two to three weeks before we have that in a clearer light."

An IOC spokesperson toldATR it is coordinating with PanamSports to determine the best course of acting when delivering the relief money.

"We are currently studying the damage caused by all the hurricanes and will make an assessment with PanamSports as to how effectively apply the support provided through the $1 million emergency fund that was announced in Lima," the spokesperson said in a statement.

Sisniega says the process of understanding the damage has already begun and that PanamSports leaders have been able to communicate with all National Olympic Committees in the region thus far.

"There are different points on where they are at," he says. "Communication from Dominica is that they are devastated, and the British Virgin Islands president and secretary general had serious damage to their houses, so I think some of them are dealing on a personal level with the damage that was done to them."

Sisniega says that aid will be delivered as soon as the extend of the damage is known and that it will come before the end of the year.

"It’s been a very unfortunate past few months and not just restricted to the Caribbean. We know the Mexican NOC suffered some infrastructure damage based on the earthquake. We need a full picture of what exactly is needed but we will be giving them relief this year and getting a quick start on helping them regroup."

Written by Kevin Nutley

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