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KEITH JOSEPH: “WE MUST BE INNOVATIVE, BUT KEEP OUR HISTORY AT HEART”

The third Panam Sports Vice President is one of the most experienced members of the Panam Sports Executive Committee. He is a respected authority in the Olympic movement who does not particularly like talking about his personal life. However, when sports are the topic of conversation, especially track and field, his eyes shine and his passion for sport takes over.

Keith Joseph (SVG) has been in the world of sports since he was nine years old. He practiced cycling and football, but his greatest passion was track and field.

Once he graduated from college, he immediately began his career as a sports leader. He was president of the Track and Field federation in Grenada for many years. He says during this time, his biggest accomplishment was reorganizing Grenada’s Olympic Committee and helping the NOC earn IOC recognition.

Years later, he would follow the same path with the Olympic Committee in his home country, St. Vincent and the Grenadines. The SVGOC became a member of the IOC in 1987.

Joseph has dedicated his entire life to sport and says he has zero regrets. He remains passionate and motivated every single day to work for the athletes of the country and, of course, the continent.

What do you think about the Panam Sports organization at the moment?
“I think that right now when we talk of Pan American Sports we are talking about the enhancement of a program, of an organization that has a very long history and tradition which has nonetheless been sufficiently responsive to the changing times and the changing world of sports. I think now we are at a very interesting moment in the development of Olympic sports in the Americas because of new leadership, a new vision and a review of the mission of the organization. So, on the one hand we are seeking to be innovative and to be futuristic, but at the same time maintain the legacy of what has been done before us.

What are your thoughts regarding the past 10 months under the new leadership of Mr. Ilic and the Executive Committee?
I think we have achieved a lot. We have moved extremely fast in terms of the transformation of the organization, but I think at the same time we have also been transparent in establishing a new vision and new mode of operation. We have kept the members informed and engaged so that at the General Assembly in Prague for example, it was the unveiling of the new brand and the strategy for pushing that brand forward and for pushing the entire organization forward.

I think that we have accomplished a tremendous amount within this 10-month period and laid the foundation for a very bright and interesting and exciting future for the organization. I am particularly impressed with the fact that as we are engaged in the planning of the future, in respect of the enhancement of the Pan American Games we are, at the same time, looking at a marketing strategy that will allow us to create our own equivalent of the top sponsors. We are looking at new forces of revenue, ways of engaging different categories of athletes within our region, and we are engaging our NOCs to do their own re-thinking of the rules within the Pan American Sports Organization; so it is not a question of merely being in receipt of assistance from the organization, but of planning and being fully involved in the planning and seeking new opportunities in the creation of innovative ways, new sources of funding, looking and embracing new technologies to allow sport in the Americas to be seen by a larger and ever-widening global audience that will ultimately rebound the development of our youth.

You’re a man with a lot of experience in the Olympic and Pan American movements. At the election in April there was only a small difference in votes between Mr. Puello and Mr. Ilic, and many people believed it will be difficult for Mr. Ilic to govern. What do you think of this opinion?I don’t think there was any animosity that would have lasted beyond the elections. If we argue that sport is a unifying force that brings people together, we have to understand that, at the same time, there is a competition that we engage in for the leadership of the organization. I believe that any one of the individuals that may have won would have been compelled to ensure that the organization never falls apart, but that it utilizes its commitment to sport and the values of sport to keep it as a cohesive unit. I think that would’ve been the responsibility of anybody who won.

In competition, some win and some lose and just as you have the winners being congratulated by the losers you essentially think, we are in the same sport and therefore that means that being defeated does not mean having animosity towards whomever may have won, and so the organization has to go through a process of saying we have a new leader and we truly embrace the new leader because he has been the recipient of the support and once the elections are over, they are over. What you do is work diligently because your commitment was not to the leader, your commitment is to the development of sport in the organization. The truth of the matter is, we are all some form of leaders in our respective countries. I think you saw that at the assembly in Prague, in the way people have come to the meetings with the leadership of Panam Sports to discuss their needs in an individual basis, I think you saw it in the way countries have responded to the crisis that emerged in result of the hurricane, and we are all appreciative of the fact that Panam Sports came forward very early and approached the National Olympic Committees on behalf of its members and worked with other international organizations very early after the hurricanes and said “look these are our members, this is the Americas and we ought to be able to assist each other”.

We are continuing to do that so what we have seen over the last few months is a new Panam Sports that is on the one hand aware of the importance of its very rich legacy and at the same time, committed to transforming itself in a matter that is consistent with developing trends and perhaps even to become a leader in terms of creating new trends in sport and in the Olympic Movement.

You are chair of the Coordination and Follow Up Commission of Lima 2019. What is your opinion on the progress of Lima 2019 as of today and what do you expect of the Games?
Let me first start by saying that yes, I think people are aware that there were challenges with respect to the National Olympic Committee and that impacted the Organizing Committee. Much of that has stabilized, there is now a new NOC in place and they have adequate representation on the local organizing committee. The government of Peru has remained committed to providing the financial resources to ensure the realization of the Games. I was impressed with the fact that the president of the republic said to the IOC after last year’s floods: “We are committed so we don’t think it’s fair for you to tell us that because of the floods we should no longer host the Games and they should be re-located. We have committed the resources and we will get it done”. He also told us he is committed to the realization of the Pan American Games and he has put aside the resources to make that happen.

I also know that the government of Peru has entered into an agreement with the United Kingdom government for trade and other areas and much of that assistance has gone towards providing human resources for the organizing committee in terms of its planning. They have reviewed the Games’ masterplan, the infrastructure development plans, the organizational charts and the human resource requirements. They have kept Panam Sports updated in all aspects of the preparatory work. The assignment of the contract for the construction of the village has been proven to be a positive sign because we were there last week and we’ve seen we already have four buildings under construction at the same time and one has already reached the fifth story, and the pace of development we are seeing is that every four days a story is completed in each of the buildings because of a sort of pre-fabricated work they are doing so by August of 2018, they will have completed four of the buildings.

So, you feel optimistic about it?
I am not only optimistic, I am seeing the work. So, I am sure at the end of the month the members of the infrastructure commission of Panam Sports will be very impressed. In terms of the other aspects of the Games’ operational plan, they have begun to fill in the various departments with professional personnel and there is a plan to increase the staff over the next few months in order to lead them appropriately. Right now, they have about 300+ staff members and they are continuing to raise the staff as they go on.

 The one area of concern that I have is the management of the traffic. They insisted there will be a ‘Games Only’ lane and it will work but that I really want to see because during the IOC session it remained a challenge and we know what is involved. The one good thing is the schools will be on vacation so there will be a decrease in traffic and there is also some road construction taking place that we believe will also help as well as some sub-villages like Callao or San Antonio that will take some pressure away from Lima. Ultimately, we are very confident and satisfied with the pace of work, the quality of the work, quality of the reporting we are getting, and we feel we can say that the Games of 2019 will be very successful.

Finally, Mr. Vice President, how do you feel about being a member of the Panam Sports Executive Committee?
I am proud to be on the current Executive Committee. We have a good team and there is a level of commitment not only to work well together but to speak openly and accept each other’s ideas even if, at times, they are critical because that is the way we work and by the end of this term of office, we will see a totally different Panam Sports, a more visible Panam Sports, and we will be able to establish a greater link with the youth of the Americas.”

 Keith Joseph is an experienced and passionate sports leader, who’s always moving forward. He is not afraid to to work hard to achieve what he wants. Joseph stands up for what he believes in and respects the team’s work. He is 100 percent committed to this new organization of Panam Sports.