Four-time Olympian George Bovell was on-hand at a test event held at Trinidad and Tobago’s brand new aquatics center last week. The temporarily-naed National Aquatic Center, situated in Balmain Couva, invited 32-year-old Bovell as its first swimmer to take to the 50m pool’s water. Bovell is cited as a primary inspiration for the facility, which has been in the works for several years now.
The facility in Trinidad consists of a 50m outdoor warm-up pool, diving well, a fitness room with sauna, Turkish bath, as well as a cold water pool. The site has the ability to permanently seat 700 spectators and is outfitted with scoring and timing, as well as above ground and underwater audio and video systems.
Of his participation in the center’s test event, Bovell commented to Newsday, “It’s been in the news since 2003 and it’s great that I’ve lived to see this and be able to enjoy it today.”
Reflecting on his humble beginnings, the Olympic bronze medalist said, “When I now started off swimming you should have seen the pool; green in color, six lanes, just a big hole in the ground. And to now see that we have reached at the highest of the sport internationally with this facility is amazing.”
Ever the visionary, Bovell sees the possibility of the aquatics center to act as a growth driver both within the sport of swimming, as well as economically. “We need to market this to the world,” he added. “We need to get teams from around the globe to come and enjoy our weather and facility and boost our economy.”
“There’s a lot university and professional teams, around winter time, that spend money to Bahamas, Cayman Islands, Bermuda and sometimes Barbados to train. If we could capture some of that market, it would allow this facility to be sustainable. The money coming in from those visiting teams would allow us to upkeep this at no cost to us. I have traveled around the world and have a long-established network that we can hopefully tap into.”
An additional revenue opportunity is tied to the naming of the venue, which is still in the works. Minister of Sport Darryl Smith did comment that there is still a possibility of the main pool being named after Bovell.
“I still have to take that proposal to Cabinet but I don’t think it would be a problem naming one of the pools (after him) and some of the other pools in recognition of others who have done well,” said Smith.
Smith also acknowledged the business side of the facility as well, indicating that, “We have to get revenue so we can maintain and have proper functions happening here. At the end of the day we want to make sure that we maintain this high-maintenance facility because there is really nothing like this in the Caribbean. We want to ensure we have the right people to manage it.”
Regardless of the aquatic center’s name, Bovell conveys that inspiring the next young crop of swimmers is the goal. “This next generation coming up, not only do they have an example of someone who has gone out there from this six lane hole in the ground pool and done what he has done with the limited resources that he had, but they have the means and the example to follow so I am looking forward to an incredibly bright future for swimming in Trinidad and Tobago,” Bovell said.
Bovell will be competing in his 5th Olympic Games this summer in Rio.