“Sports in Paradise is back,” proclaims Minister Bowleg

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Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture the Hon. Mario Bowleg speaks during his Contribution to the 2022/2023 Budget Debate, in the House of Assembly, on June 13, 2022. (BIS Photos/Eric Rose)

During his Contribution to the 2022/2023 Budget Debate in the House of Assembly, on June 13, 2022, Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture the Hon. Mario Bowleg said that Sports was the “single tool” that could bring forth positive social changes.

“Therefore, we, a caring Government, will be investing heavily in our athletes, their development, facilities and the overall brand,” Minister Bowleg said. He noted that for 30 years, the annual grant from his Ministry to national federations, for “A” classified core sports, was $80,000. Over the years, he noted, that amount was drastically cut to $20,000.

“I am pleased to advise that those Federations that are among this group, who are in compliance with the Ministry, their annual grant will be restored,” Minister Bowleg said.

“This government will make the investment,” he added. “All ‘B’ core sports, and their National Federations will receive an increase of 10% in their annual grants this fiscal year.”

Minister Bowleg continued: “This is what you do for a country, that’s producing top, world-class athletes. This great country of ours is not only the envy of the Caribbean, but the world. We must show the world that we love and appreciate what our athletes are doing, by making investments that can be felt by all – including federations and stakeholders.”

Minister Bowleg said that his Government knew that it will take a holistic approach, a partnership with the Government and the Bahamas’ athletes, coaches, administrators, and all stakeholders.

“In the upcoming months, renovations to sporting facilities, throughout the country will start,” he said. “To ensure that the Family Islands have the proper facilities to prepare for their Island games and the upcoming Bahama Games. In fact, work will commence at the end of this month on the Grand Bahama Sporting Complex, in the nation’s second city. Major work has started on our national gymnasium here in New Providence, the Kendal Isaacs Gym.”

“Our very own professional National Basketball Association players are expected to play in this newly renovated facility, in a couple of weeks,” Minister Bowleg added. “Buddy Hield has confirmed that he will play in the Second Window of the FIBA Basketball World Cup Qualifiers, on 4th July, 2022. We await confirmation from Deandre Ayton and Kai Jones.” Minister Bowleg pointed out that that was just one of many major events in his Ministry’s Sports in Paradise schedule.

“Sports in Paradise is back,” he proclaimed. “My hardworking team and I are revolutionizing the Bahamas’ Sports in Paradise and Sports Tourism brand. We are encouraging persons to book it, come to The Bahamas – but when you come, don’t forget to bring your sporting gear.”

“More and more athletes, teams, coaches, associations, federation presidents and their executives are buying into the concept,” he added. “Just ask LeBron James, who will be in town this December for the Hoop Fest Basketball tournament.”

Minister Bowleg noted that the past weekend Bahamian National Football League (NFL) player Michael Strachan headlined a list of NFL stars, that included Michael Vick, the former quarterback and 2010 Comeback Player of the Year; Los Angeles Chargers’ Keenan Allen, who is a five-time Pro Bowler and 2017 Comeback Player of Year; Rashad Fenton, Melvin Ingram and D. J. Swearinger. They were all in town for the inaugural Bahamas All-Pro Celebrity weekend, he said.

“A few weeks ago, the Cleveland Browns O-Line players, led by quarterback Deshaun Watson, trained at the Thomas A Robinson National Stadium,” Minister Bowleg said. “Social media was buzzing with pictures of them training, golfing, and their view of paradise from Atlantis Resort.”

“NFL players aren’t the only ones coming here,” he added. “Miami Heat’s Jimmy Butler used his free time, ahead of the NBA’s Eastern Conference Final series with the Boston Celtics, to train here in The Bahamas.

“It doesn’t matter if it’s just for training, professional or amateur competitions, clinics and seminars, they are booking for ‘Sports in Paradise’ an authentic Bahamian experience.”

Minister Bowleg said that the Davis-led administration knew that it took more than just a slogan.

“We aren’t just talking this, like they did, we are about action – just check the loaded sporting calendar,” he said.

“Our Blueprint for Change clearly outlined our chartered course, and the Sports Department is paving The Way Forward.”

Minister Bowleg noted that The Babe Ruth Bahamas Baseball Championships will serve as host to teams from across the world inclusive of the USA, China, the Caribbean and Cuba at the newly refurbished Baillou Hills Fields, in the Queen Elizabeth Sports Complex. More than 20 teams will play in the Under-12 and Under-16 age categories, during this five-day tournament, which is scheduled for July 7th -11, 2022, he added.

“In preparation for this significant tournament, the National Sports Authority, led by its Executive Chairman, Mr. Greg Burrows has undoubtedly produced a product that has now become the envy of the Caribbean, and has brought a shining beacon on our island, to the tone where we will be hosting international tournaments on a monthly bases for an extended period of time,” Minister Bowleg said.

Minister Bowleg said that it was a “New Day in Sports”, as more federations are getting the much-needed support through his Ministry, from the Government. He pointed out that another commitment his Government delivered on was the hosting of The North American, Central American and Caribbean (NACAC) Track and Field Championships.

“The great sporting nation, The Bahamas, will serve as host of the fourth edition of the regional competition,” Minister Bowleg said. “This competition has the potential to attract most of the region’s premier elite athletes to our shores in the likes of our very own Shaunae Miller-Uibo and Steven Gardiner, Jamaican Shelly- Ann Fraser-Pryce, Elaine Thompson-Herah and many others.”

“Most importantly, to avoid the Nassau-centric focus, we have decided that it is most fitting that this event be held in the second city, Freeport, Grand Bahama,” he added. “An event such as this will provide a much-needed economic boost to the economy of Grand Bahama.” Minister Bowleg noted that, in addition to the immediate economic benefits, the Grand Bahama Sports Complex was about to undergo further enhancements, inclusive but not limited to a recertified level-two track and an electronic timing system.

“These enhancements further position the island to attract other international competitions in the future,” he said. “Now that’s ‘the way forward’.”