The recently concluded Top Gear Festival, the proposed development of the National Stadium, heritage and culture were among the topics discussed, when British High Commissioner, Victoria Dean, paid a courtesy call on Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports, Stephen Lashley.

During the meeting at the Ministry???s Sky Mall, Haggatt St. Michael, office, the High Commissioner congratulated Barbados for the successful staging of the motoring event that attracted thousands of local and overseas rally enthusiasts.

???From the United Kingdom???s perspective, bringing Top Gear here is a ???genius idea.??? You can tell from the buzz around the island, the fact that you could not get a rental car on the weekend???even the people that actually attended on either day had a really fantastic feeling about it [Top Gear] and it is absolutely to the credit of Barbados that you have decided to make this happen and to bring it here,??? Mrs. Dean added.

She said projects such as Top Gear should be pursued by the Government because it would attract a particular segment of visitors and ultimately, boost the island???s tourism product.

Mr. Lashley said the benefits of Top Gear to tourism were phenomenal and credited the private sector-led initiative for leading the way in transforming the Bushy Park Racing Circuit.

???We have been able through Top Gear to have a private sector investment focus where they actually retook Bushy Park and were able to transform it into a facility that allowed for Top Gear to come. Without that, we couldn???t host Top Gear???,??? he pointed out.

The Sports Minister mentioned plans to redevelop the National Stadium in relation to the future development of sports and identified this as one project that could benefit from UK assistance.

Mr. Lashley reasoned that a modern stadium was necessary since the island had a packed sporting calendar and some overseas clubs have expressed an interest in coming here.

???A modern stadium means that we can attract many more events to Barbados. Our sports calendar is very packed not only in relation to the usual track and field [events], but cycling has a tremendously tight schedule. So, I would be hard pressed to see the stadium not being utilised,??? he added.

Mr. Lashley further stated: ???As it stands now there are several clubs that have to do other things outside of the stadium. We have just completed a $3.5 million track and it is already heavily used. What we need to do is to add to that with facilities???Not only in terms of attracting international competition but local athletes need to be training and competing at a facility that gives them some comparable advantage??????

The High Commissioner suggested that government could seek funding for the project from the European Union or through Compete Caribbean Programme.

The officials also discussed heritage and culture and the synergies between Barbados and Britain in this regard, the provision of scholarships and the Crop Over Festival.??Barbados and the United Kingdom established diplomatic ties on November 30, 1966.

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