Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Prime Minister brings remarks at opening of FIFA congress

Remarks by Rt. Hon. Hubert A. Ingraham, Prime Minister, Opening Ceremony
59th FIFA Congress, Paradise Island, Bahamas
2 June, 2009

Colleague Ministers
Mr. Joseph Blatter, President of FIFA
Mr. Jack Warner, Vice President of FIFA
Mr. Chuck Blazer, FIFA Executive Member
Mr. Anton Sealey, President of The Bahamas Football Association
Mr. Lionel Haven, General Secretary of The Bahamas Football Association

Ladies and Gentlemen:

It is a special pleasure for me to welcome President Blatter, the delegates and non-delegate participants of the 59th FIFA Congress.

I wish in particular to acknowledge and thank Mr. Chuck Blazer, friend and long-time resident of The Bahamas and member of the Executive Committee of FIFA for the crucial role he played in bringing the 59th Congress to Paradise Island. Thank you, Mr. Blazer.

I also wish to acknowledge the hard work of Mr. Anton Sealey, Mr. Lionel Haven and The Bahamas Football Association for their hard work and dedication in supporting Mr. Blazer’s quest and in achieving this final result.

Football is the most widely played sport internationally, and we share the interest of the Bahamas Football Association in expanding the reach of the game to more of our citizens.

Let me join all the others who will have expressed the sentiment to you: your visit to The Bahamas is important to us. We are especially appreciative of your presence and that of the international media.

The 58th FIFA Congress last year was held in Sidney, Australia – a country with a somewhat larger football tradition than our own. So one can only imagine the delight when it was announced that the 59th Congress would be held in The Bahamas.

You will have discovered that, though small, The Bahamas has a great tradition of sporting excellence and highly qualified and dedicated professionals.

As well, you will have learned that we have created a particularly successful industry out of welcoming visitors to our shores. These two make us ideally suited to hosting the 59th FIFA Congress.

We trust that your experience here in the wonderland of Atlantis will help bolster our reputation as a modern, efficient and convenient location for both business and pleasure and certainly for the business of discussing leisure.

Sport is important for so many reasons, whether in teaching discipline, promoting healthy lifestyles or developing social skills. And so it is quite natural that governments are enthusiastic supporters and promoters of sporting activities.

I am advised that among issues before you for consideration are matters relating to the three pillars of FIFA; that is, firstly, to develop the game; secondly to “Touch the World” relating to expanding the reach of the game amongst women, and finally to build the game through the “20 centres for 2010” official charity campaign.

Certainly, it is our hope that your presence here will result in the further development of the game and its wider appeal to all our people but very specifically to children who would benefit from exposure to the game and to its wide international appeal.

The Government and people of The Bahamas regard this Congress as being a globally significant meeting of sports administrators comprising over 200 countries. Your decisions will shape the organization of Member Associations world wide, the most significant being the announcement of the upcoming 2014 World Cup host country.

This event has been a significant undertaking for The Bahamas requiring a multi-agency cooperative approach undergirded by unprecedented strategy.

In this regard, I would like to congratulate the Minister of Youth, Sport and Culture and the ardent effort of the Official Secretariat and other national stakeholders in collaborating with the Bahamas Football Association (BFA) in this initiative.

Going forward, we hope to strengthen and solidify our strong sporting tradition with the completion of a National Stadium currently under construction. Its anticipated completion in 2011 will strengthen our ability to host international matches and sporting events and we look forward to such opportunities in the years ahead.

We particularly look forward to the boost the new football pitch will provide to the further development of football in The Bahamas, particularly to our junior footballers.

In closing I wish to congratulate you on the completion of a successful 59th Congress, extend very best wishes for continued success around the world.

We have a saying in The Bahamas – “once is not enough”. In that vein, I say we look forward to welcoming you back, frequently, in the future. And when you return we invite you to visit some of our wonderland of Family Islands that make up the Bahamas archipelago.

Welcome and thank you.

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