Bare stands and vacant pavements greeted J’Ouvert revellers in the capital city of Port-of-Spain yesterday a dismal sign for vendors and organisers alike. Up to 8.30 am yesterday—the Lord Kitchener Stand, South Quay remained virtually deserted. It was a similar situation as the normally crowded streets along South Quay and Broadway, Independence Square remained devoid of spectators. A long-time supporter of Carnival, 60-year-old Mary Adams, of Belmont, who journeyed into the capital around 3 am— expressed surprise at the lack of spectators. “I got up extra early to come here because I know it always have people here and I wanted to make sure I got a good seat. Imagine, we have our pick now and we could even switch seats too,” Adams said, as she burst out in laughter. Asked why people may have stayed away, Adams opined, “It could be any number of things right now. I know the crime bad and plenty people frighten to come out although the police keep saying it is okay.” At exactly 4 am, Port-of-Spain Mayor Joel Martinez declared the start to the Carnival celebrations—while National Carnival Commission chairman, Colin Lucas said he was looking forward to what was shaping up to be an “interesting” season. He urged both masqueraders and spectators to have, “A great, safe and enjoyable Carnival 2018.” Also present for the formal opening was former mayor Murchison Brown. Chairman of the Downtown Carnival Committee, Wendell Stephens—who has been holding the position for the last five years — said he intended to step down following after this year’s season. He said, “chairing Carnival has been a challenge.” “However, it has been a challenge that I have managed to overcome during the last five years as chairman.” Stephen praised Supt Glenn Charles of the Port-of-Spain City Police as one of the main people who guided him through his years of organising the Carnival celebrations. Stephens said he was ready to pass on the baton. Asked what measures had been adopted to ensure the downtown judging point was safe for all users, Charles boasted, “The Downtown Carnival is one of the safest zones.” “This year, we did out homework to correct whatever little problems we have last year and we intend to keep it that way.” The main problem last year was the issue of crowd control as the larger bands positioned themselves for judging. “We have since brought in additional numbers to assist and because of the security threat, we are even more vigilant regarding people going up into the stands and we are keeping a more vigilant watch.” Charles said they were assisted by the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) as well Court and Process Branch officers in searching spectators and arresting those on outstanding warrants. Insp Krishna Boodoo, who was in charge of the RBC carpark located opposite to the judge’s bandstand at South Quay, said “We want to ensure the masqueraders and the public using this venue are safe. We are wishing the Carnival goers all the best and a safe celebration.” He said they were ready for any emergency.