The political culture of our society seems to suggest that politicians must make promises, whether or not they have the capacity to fulfil them.
Even young politicians, eager to prove themselves, seem to believe that the key to a successful future rests on their capacity to make as many promises as they can. The more they promise the more they seem to feel themselves confident of doing well with the electorate.
Politicians today do not seem to think of sport as frivolity. They spend no time reading about sport and so fail to grasp the trends in contemporary sport. Thus while sport has moved on to become one of the fastest growing industries in the world, positively impacting national economies, we remain here twiddling our thumbs and seeking ways to engage in chest-thumping exercises rather than engaging ourselves in the research and development that is required to be relevant.
It is unfortunate that our politicians are so consumed by the desire to speak at e very forum and engage in promise making when they should be spending much more of their time listening to the masses.
Times have changed but the general modus of our politicians have not.
Over the years we have spent much time in this Column reflecting on the paucity of judgement on the part of politicians regarding sport infrastructure.
Even the most cursory analysis of sport infrastructure in St Vincent and the Grenadines yields a frightening reality.
The determination of precisely where to locate what sport infrastructural facility has almost always been undertaken by politicians and without consultation with the primary stakeholders of the sport and the community.
The business of politics has to do with accessing governance if the country. No one enters politics to become a member of the Opposition. Politicians join political parties to win government. In doing so they readily engage themselves in house-to-house visits and a range of meetings with the masses.
Interestingly however, once elected, the same politicians choose to ignore the very same masses with whom they were engaging themselves so closely in the lead up to elections. Indeed, of the masses are encountered in any significant way thereafter it is when the next general elections are due.
Between general elections politicians in government tend to adopt a stance that they have suddenly been imbued with some near-infinite wisdom such that they do not need to consult the masses anymore. In fact, they turn to becoming lecturers to the masses, seemingly possessive of a near-infallible understanding of their needs and desires.
It is the culture of our politics that allows the politicians to become the sole determinants of what sport facilities the masses need and where these should be constructed.
Politicians also, of course, determine who should build the sport infrastructure since political analysts across the world have often described this as a primary mechanism for returning favours, feathering caps, obtain kickbacks and leave legacies to themselves.
In St Vincent and the Grenadines we have seen some playing fields constructed that are in no way deserving of the name.
In the Cumberland area a playing has been under construction for several years. Activity picks up pace each time general elections are pending. In the first round of construction in the lead up to the 2005 general elections the area was graded. Once the elections had been completed the graded was left to facilitate the growing of trees and shrubs. The community wondered what was the point.
Then, in the lead up to the general elections of 2010 work resumed in a very rapid pace. Concrete drains were being constructed and once more the community felt that something serious was being done. Elections completed, the pace of work declined yet again.
Work is on again. This will probably be completed for the pending general elections, which would probably make it approximately the third such event while this has been under construction. But this should not come as a surprise. It is indicative of the reason for the facility being constructed in the first place. The idea is for the politicians to claim to an unsuspecting public that they have fulfilled a promise made to construct a playing field in the area,
West St George Secondary School
The playing field at the West St George Secondary School is an amazing phenomenon. This is a new school and the idea was to ensure that its construction came with a playing field.
The playing field was constructed and fenced and so one gets the impression that it is functional.
The cows may have a much better chance of survival with their sporting skills that the students attending this school. The Physical Education teacher has been at his wits end trying to convince the authorities that the playing field is a hazard to the children attending the school because it has not really been completed.
For years the Physical Education Teacher has had to take the athletes of the West St George Secondary School to the Arnos Vale Sports Complex to allow them to train under relatively safe conditions.
In the lead up to the Windward Islands Schools Games hosted in St Vincent and the Grenadines last year, an attempt was made by the organisers to get work done on the playing field so that the participants would not have to be taken to other playing fields to train between competition. The work required was far too great and so the initiative had to be abandoned.
The case of the West St George Secondary School Playing Field remains a painful one if only because the school is an excellent facility and the students deserve much better.
Thanks to the near-heroic effort of Stephen Joachim and the leadership of the St Vincent and the Grenadines Amateur Swimming Association plans are now in train to expand the pool, adding another three lanes at least. At the same time the Association would ensure that the pool does eventually make it to 25m, the minimum standard accepted by the international swimming body, FINA.
The Swimming Association merely asked the government or permission to expand the facility since it is at Shrewsbury House in Rathomill, the property of the government.
It is interesting to note that it is an initiative of the Association, not of the politicians.
Given the growth and development of Swimming, with tremendous funding from the National Olympic Committee, local sponsors and parents of athletes, success has been the outcome.
Do not hold your breath as we can expect soon enough for the politicians to lay claim to the success of the swimmers and the association, if only to benefit from the association.
This is the political culture of our society.
Arnos Vale Sports Complex
The Arnos Vale Sports Complex deserves special treatment.
The sportspeople of this country have never been privy to the financials regarding the actual amount of money spent on the Arnos Vale Sports Complex in preparation for the Cricket World Cup 2007.
We were told how much was budgeted for the entire exercise of hosting some goat cook matches and it was in excess of $50m. We were not told how much was actually spent on each of the facilities upgraded.
We are aware that monies were expended on Arnos Vale #1 and # 2, Sion Hill and Stubbs. How much was actually spent remains something that only some of the politicians may know.
It has been several years now that the toilets downstairs the double-decker stand have not been fully functional. How it is that the West Indies Cricket Board has not addressed this remains a mystery but so too does it mode of operation, for the most part. No surprises there.
Certainly, the local cricket authorities should have insisted that this matter be dealt with some years ago.
The same can be said of one of the toilets in the Players’ Pavilion that has been a problematic since the time of the Cricket World Cup goat cook matches.
Earlier this year, the Schools Games Committee had to expend resources for the rental of portable toilets for the two days of the Inter Schools Athletics Championships Finals, in order to ensure that patrons using the double decker stands could have appropriate access to toile facilities.
Then there is the matter of the surface inside Arnos Vale #1, our premier playing facility.
At the time of the reconstruction of the playing field some critics pointed to the problems attendant to a heavily sand-based playing field and the impact that it would have on athletes. It was suggested that the athletics 350m, eight-lane segment be left with heavier soil that would allow athletes to compete on a firm surface. One response was that the cricketers involved in the goat cook matches did not complain of being held back by the amount of sand used. The track and field athletes and coaches have been complaining ever since.
The reality today, seven years later, is that the field is extremely heavy. Each time bad grasses are uprooted the holes thus created are filled with sand.
For the Inter Schools Athletics Heats the surface was provided without cutting. The argument then was that regional cricket was pending and that the surface would be cut at that time. Cutting too early would have meant that by the time the matches were due the surface would have been inadequate. How so? No one could really tell. The result was that the track and field athletes were running in heavy grass, leaving them with poor times.
For the recently held National Club Championships, Heats and Finals, the surface was particularly heavy. It was possible to see the sand being raised each time an athlete ran around the track.
It was impossible for athletes to perform at their best.
A request to have the athletics arena rolled for the Finals of the Club Championships was turned down.
The next major activity at Arnos Vale #1 is expected to be in November 2014, six months away.
The issue then is whether the facility at Arnos Vale is really for all of the sporting disciplines that use it.
We end where we began.
Politicians can make promises to the youths of this nation in respect of the development of sport. Thus far what we have is a rather pathetic approach.
Sportspeople cannot eat promises and they understand that politicians make these promises merely to impress and perhaps feed their own over-inflated egos.
The athletes are aware that they are not being given a fair share of the resources of this country yet, when success is attained the politicians are among the first to associate themselves with the achievements.
Interestingly, the politicians ignore the conditions under which the athletes, coaches and administrators have to work to achieve any measure of success.