While this is not the first time that we would be undertaking this activity there are several challenges which confront us and should not be underestimated.
The first step in hosting the Windward Islands Secondary Schools Games 2013 is the establishment of an Organsing Committee. Indeed, such an organisation should have been established prior to attending this year’s edition of the Game sin neighbouring Grenada. It would have been appropriate to ensure that members of the Organising Committee attend the Games of 2012 in order to get first-hand experience of how they were done.
It does not matter how many times we have hosted these Games in the past there are always new challenges facing us on each occasion and the experiences of other hosts are critical to our getting better the next time around.
The Committee should be composed of the heads of each of the critical areas of the Games themselves – technical, venues, accommodation and meals, transportation, medical and socials – and additional persons deemed capable of facilitating adequate preparation for and successful conduct of the Games.
In the past it was understood that the Windward Islands Secondary Schools Games fell under the Ministry of Education. However, that was at a time when Sport also fell under the same ministerial portfolio.
It now seems that the Ministry of Sport may well be desirous of laying claim to being the local agency responsible for the Games because in the other Islands they are directly involved. This matter has to be resolved sooner rather than later.
The fact that we are already in September and the Organising Committee is yet to be established. This means that already we are behind schedule.
The Organising Committee must schedule regular meetings to get regular updates on the progress being made by the respective sub committees. There has to be ongoing monitoring and evaluation of all aspects of the preparatory exercise.
Perhaps the most important component of the Organising Committee is the Technical area. It is important for a sub committee coordinates the responsibilities attendant thereto.
Among the responsibilities of the sub committee would be the preparation of the sport competitions in great detail. The number of competitions, the draw for the team sports, the procurement of the requisite equipment and the determination of and preparation of the best possible venues for the events fall under the mandate of this sub committee.
Since the sports are all predetermined the work is lessened to some extent. The sports are football, volleyball, basketball, netball and athletics.
The determination of the venues would be based on a number of important factors, which must be considered. The Organising Committee must be clear as to its objective in hosting the Games and this impacts the work of the technical sub committee. For example, if the intention is to allow the events to be seen across St Vincent and the Grenadines then consideration would be given to ensuring that venues on the Windward and Leeward sides of the island are included and so too the Grenadines.
Finance would be a key determinant, however, of how widespread the Games would be. Taking teams to the Grenadines is a very costly undertaking. Unfortunately for the Grenadines they have never been included in any of the previous Games we have hosted. There is something wrong about that in a multi-island State such as we are.
Transportation to venues deemed far removed from the accommodation base.
It is very important that the national sports associations, the governing bodies for the sports on the Games programme are represented on the technical sub committee. This would facilitate knowledge of the latest rules and regulations as well as an important resource.
Once the competition venues are identified there has to be a schedule of adequate preparation for hosting the respective sports. This does not mean waiting until the very last month to begin preparations.
If the venues are determined before the end of 2012 then the event venues sub committee must work with the National Sports Council to ensure that collectively they plan just how the preparations would be undertaken.
It is important to ensure that each of the venues has good playing surfaces, covered seating for players and spectators, adequate dressing rooms for male and female participants and officials, water and electricity, functioning toilets, an area for medical observation/treatment in the event of injuries and adequate facilities for garbage disposal.
While the needs seem obvious they are often overlooked in the preparation of many activities here in St Vincent and the Grenadines.
Our competition venues are reflective of our entire society and must therefore be appropriately prepared.
Accommodation & meals
The practice over the years has been for Organising Committees to use a school for accommodating the participating teams. One expects that this is likely to be the case yet again in 2013.
The Organising Committee must therefore ensure that very early an appropriate school is identified and the process of getting approval for its Games-time usage sought.
The accommodation and meals sub committee needs to ensure that the selected school meets all of the requirements of male and female students and officials.
Mattresses must be procured in a timely manner, toilets must be fully operational and tidy and showers must be put in place at the institution to ensure that the participants are made to feel comfortable.
Caterers must be identified and proposals requested. This should be done and arrangements agreed to by December of 2012. The numbers are already determined so the call for proposals to do the catering should not pose any major challenges.
The meals must be suited to the needs of athletes and provided in sufficient quantities. They must be provided in a timely manner.
There must be a transportation sub committee that works with the logistics agreed to by the Organising Committee. Participants and officials must be assured that they would get to and from their respective venues in a timely manner.
It is important that participants feels comfortable with their transportation since the athletes must not be under pressure from worrying about when or how they would get to and from competition.
A medical sub committee is an essential component of the Organising Committee. The participating teams must feel satisfied that should anything untoward occur during their stay here the individual(s) involved would receive urgent and competent attention.
There must be competent sports medicine personnel at all competition venues. These personnel must be appropriately trained well ahead of the Games.
The sub committee must ensure that at each competition venue and at the accommodation there are adequate spaces to all for medical attention to be conducted in privacy should incidents occur.
There must be adequate medical supplies on hand at all venues in case of eventualities.
The country’s major medical facility must be prepared to treat urgently any cases emanating from the Games.
The Organising Committee must ensure that appropriate arrangements are made for the participating teams have some down time to enjoy some of the culture and life of St Vincent and the Grenadines. This is one aspect that receives little or no attention at the Games.
Marketing, Finance and Sponsorship
Over the past several years Organising Committees of the Windward Islands Secondary Schools Games have done precious little by way of aggressively marketing the Games.
The Governments have always been expected to meet all costs involved in hosting the Games as well as the cost of getting to the event. Fortunately, WINLOT has come to the rescue over the past few years and this covers the cost of hosting the annual event. This however should not mean that Organising Committees should not market the event and seek out additional sponsors.
There is a sense amongst the organisers of the annual event that since WINLOT and governments shoulder the financial burden each time around there is no need for marketing. This has left the leaders of WINLOT rather dissatisfied since there are few, if any, spectators at the Games. In other words, as a sponsor, WINLOT in particular does not see any real return on its investment in the Games.
For 2013 the Organising Committee should insist on a Marketing, Finance and Sponsorship sub committee that does the budgeting, raise funds and promote the Games so that they are successful in terms of participation by spectators
Our visitors must feel safe and secure while in St Vincent and the Grenadines. The Organising Committee must ensure that the Ministry of National Security facilitates the leadership of the security sub committee.
The Organising Committee should by this time have reviewed this year’s edition of the annual Windward Islands Secondary Schools games held in Grenada from the standpoint of that country’s Organising Committee as well as from our team’s management. This exercise would facilitate avoidance of the mistakes made as well as an enhancement of the positive aspects.
During the preparatory exercise there is urgent need for continuous assessment of the work being done.
Immediately following each day’s events the various sub committees must review their work and make changes wherever necessary. This guarantees the greatest chance of success.
Following the conclusion of the Games the final evaluation should be completed within one week.
Local team preparation
St Vincent and the Grenadines must begin now to identify potential athletes of the various sports who should be in training attempting to make the final team.
We cannot wait until the end of the various inter secondary schools competition to select athletes to begin training. This has been the greatest pitfall of all of our previous attendance at Games. We waited until the very last minute to force-train a team for the Games.
The fact that we have won segments of the Games on different occasions is good but it also comes without adequate training of the respective teams.
We can certainly do much better at the annual Windward Islands Secondary Schools Games both as host and as a participating team.
We simply have to plan and execute the plan effectively and efficiently.