Four years after the London Olympics, the hype regarding the safety of the next venue, Rio de Janeiro, in Brazil, seems to have died down, particularly where track and field is concerned. The start of the lucrative Diamond League series has heralded the onset of several other meets all over the world, giving fans and indeed athletes an opportunity to discover who are the potential finalists in the many events to be contested this summer. Jamaicans got an opportunity, up close, to witness one such early contest with the staging of the Jamaica International Invitational (JII) meet last Saturday at the National Stadium. The meet was well attended and the usual World leading and personal best performances of some of the athletes on show added to the general satisfaction of those who attended or who watched on television. The late withdrawal of some of the big name stars seemed not to have dampened spectator enthusiasm except when it was announced – just before the start of the women’s 200-metre event – that double Olympic sprint champion and Jamaican sprint queen, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce would not be running. The Jamaican hopefuls who did compete, however, gave fans confidence that the prophesy of Olympian and new Member of Parliament, Juliet Cuthbert-Flynn, would be fulfilled. Mrs Cuthbert-Flynn predicted that the nation would surpass the 12 medals garnered at the event in London in 2012. Elaine Thompson (10.79), Kemar Bailey-Cole (10.01) in the 100-metre races, Danielle Williams (12.55) in the sprint hurdles, Janieve Russell (54.61), Jaheel Hyde (49.16) in the 400m hurdles races, Javon Francis (44.85) and Novlene Williams-Mills (50.87) in the flat 400m, all showed signs of being in the finals of their events in Rio. This is not to say that the other Jamaicans who competed last Saturday night have no chance in reaching the finals or even medalling in Rio. Asafa Powell looked very good in the early stages of the men’s 200m and his time of 20.45 is not to be sniffed at. However, with his history of groin and hamstring injuries, I am confident that his handlers will encourage him to concentrate on the 100m and the second or finishing leg of the 4x100m relay, of which the nation seems to be a sure pick for the gold in Rio. There were other very notable performances at the JII last Saturday. Bahamian Shaunae Miller, who ran what seemed to be an easy 22.14 in the women’s 200m, was the standout performance of the night. Miller is better known as a 400m runner, who uses the 200m to sharpen her speed in the first 200m of the race. Her body type is reminiscent of another top world class runner (a male) and if she continues to progress (as it now appears), Marita Koch’s very suspicious world record of 47.60 seconds may be in danger. Well, maybe not this year, but definitely before the following Olympics.
“That’s the pity. We’re on the one-foot line of completing the building.” Museum and city officials said the biggest failure has been a lack of support from private donors, especially from the Valley. Of the $36 million raised to design and complete the museum, 70 percent has come from public funds. But some museum officials accused Councilman Richard Alarcón of diverting nearly $1 million in city energy sales dedicated to the museum by his predecessor, now-state Sen. Alex Padilla. The Cambria Energy Fund, which now contains $982,000 generated from methane gas sales from the former Lopez Canyon Landfill, was supposed to act as seed money for a $1 million allocation from the county. “Padilla didn’t have any problem with it,” said museum board member Richard Katz, “but Alarcón has said, `No how, no way.”‘ Alarcón, who assumed Padilla’s Northeast Valley district in January, said neighborhood councils and homeowner groups have demanded the dump funds be spent on the community at large, not on a private museum. “I’m a very strong supporter of the Children’s Museum,” he said. “But the (energy funds) should be used in concert with whatever the community intends. The bottom line is they’ve got themselves in a pickle because they haven’t been able to raise enough private money, and the city shouldn’t bail them out.” In March, the Foothill Trails District Neighborhood Council opposed spending dump gas money originally earmarked for a Hansen Dam Environmental Awareness Center Fund to benefit the museum. Better, they said, to spend the money on a future Hansen Dam Wildlife Reserve or other community service. Mary Benson, treasurer for the neighborhood council, said it set a bad precedent for the city to spend city dump funds on a nonprofit museum foundation. “Once (City Council) members can direct public money to nonprofit foundation favorites, that violates the City Charter and directs taxpayer dollars into private hands,” Benson said. “And that’s wrong. It is illegal.” Other museum funds have fallen through, including $774,000 in state Proposition 12 money, when museum officials couldn’t ensure the facility could open by June 2008. That leaves only $800,000 borrowed by the museum board to pay $3.3 million owed to the contractor. On May 2, the contractor asked for a statement of sufficient funds. “We’re within the last week to demonstrate our ability to pay … (or) shut down construction,” said Cecilia Aguilera Glassman, the museum’s chief executive officer, hired in March with the understanding the museum had enough money to complete its building. “The consequence for the museum is it would be extremely difficult to start up construction again.” The $58.5 million museum was supposed to have opened last year on a wedge-shaped site overlooking the lake at Hansen Dam. Designed by architect Sarah Graham as an environmentally “green” showcase, it would be sheathed in walls of real and synthetic grass. Exhibits designed by Edwin Schlossberg, husband of Caroline Kennedy, were designed to capture the imagination of children. After construction, the museum would still have to raise an additional $11 million for the exhibits. Downtown, the original Children’s Museum of Los Angeles, designed in 1979 by renowned architect Frank Gehry, closed in 2000 when plans were in the works to build sister facilities in Little Tokyo and at Hansen Dam. The Little Tokyo plan was scrapped for a shortage of funds. If construction on the new museum continues, a temporary certificate of occupancy is expected in early August. Padilla, a strong proponent of the museum before he left for Sacramento, did not respond to a request for comment. While Alarcón pledged to help find other sources of funding, Corwin is working well-heeled Angelenos for short- and long-term funds. “I’m running around town, seeing everybody who will see me, to help us get there,” he said. “We haven’t done our homework in the Valley. We haven’t been to the Rotary, the Kiwanis. We haven’t done the groundwork for support. The important thing is, we’ve got to stay positive.” email@example.com (818) 713-3730160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! LAKE VIEW TERRACE – Construction on the much-anticipated new Children’s Museum of Los Angeles could grind to a halt next week because of a lack of money. Museum backers need either to raise $2.5 million to pay its contractor by Monday or stop work on the San Fernando Valley’s first and only museum. If workers pack up their tools, officials say it could cost $1.5 million more just to resume construction. And some say it could even spell the end of the museum. “It would be so sad to see it close. … In the end of the day, it’s all about the kids,” said Bruce Corwin, co-chairman of the museum board, who was scrambling Tuesday to raise money from sources around the city.