As the year 2007 comes to a close we may do well to reflect on its ups and downs in the hope that we could do bettering 2008.
2007 saw us continue to spend millions of dollars on the Arnos Vale Sports Complex and the cricket fields at Sion Hill and Stubbs. They are referred to here as cricket fields because in essence our preparations for the Cricket World Cup 2007 ensured that they were essentially such and nothing more.
St Vincent and the Grenadines spent millions in preparation for some warm up matches that Bermuda had rejected after having secured it through the Bid process. It was not worth it. We wasted resources. We made bad choices.
Even at the time of writing this column none of the playing fields can realistically be considered satisfactory. Arnos Vale # 2 is being replanted once more. At Arnos Vale # 1 there are several varieties of grasses competing with the largest grouping of worms and ants ever assembled at any one recreational venue in St Vincent and the Grenadines.
The retaining wall for the river at Arnos Vale is still being repaired at a cost that has not really been revealed to the media.
Sion Hill has had the football field re-aligned and is not yet completed as a facility for optimum usage by sportspeople.
The reality is that financially our hosting of the CWC2007 warm up matches was a disaster. Final figures appear still outstanding. The benefits to this country financially are not for discussion – too embarrassing.
The Sunset legislation literally allowed the sun to set on our cultural methods of enjoying ourselves at sporting events, particularly cricket.
We have the longest serving Local Organising Committee (LOC) for the CWC2007 in the entire region, its life having been extended through to December 31 of this year; and this for an event that ended in March.
Cricket is no better off here for us having hosted expensive warm up matches and we have seen no direct sports-tourism benefit. If anything we have been left with the image of school children having their snacks being taken away from them and dumped before their very eyes.
Interestingly the LOC was handed the responsibility for the fields used for the CWC2007 for the period of its existence. This meant that the National Sports Council (NSC) was left out in the cold, for the most part. It is something of a travesty that should the LOC terminate operations at the end of December 2007 they will be handing to the NSC some facilities whose surfaces may be in a worse condition than when it was originally taken out of the organisation’s hands. This is certainly the case with Arnos Vale # 1, once considered the nation’s premier outdoor sporting surface.
The St Vincent and the Grenadines National Olympic Committee (NOC) continued to be the leader in the development of sports in the state.
Several national sports associations received technical courses and basketball concluded the year with a three-month programme offered by the NOC which looks at the development of the national structure of the organisation.
The NOC expanded its Grassroots Talent Identification Programme which now includes athletics, basketball, boxing, cycling, table tennis, taekwondo and volleyball. This programme touches every part of St Vincent and the Grenadines bringing countless youths into contact with the basics of the aforementioned sporting disciplines.
The NOC hosted its 1st national Sports Academy during the period 17 – 21 December 2007. The sporting disciplines were athletics, boxing, table tennis and volleyball. Cycling will host its segment in early January. The athletes have been selected from the Grassroots Talent identification Programme and were accommodated at Bay Hill Apartments at Sion Hill for the duration of the very intensive programme. Subject areas went well beyond the honing of sports skills to include communications, sports and social etiquette, drugs in sport, time management, the management of sport injuries, sports psychology and nutrition.
The National Olympic Academy (NOA) was very active during the year.
The NOA reorganised the website of the NOC – www.svgnoc.org. One of the most important features of the site is the inclusion of the Sports Information Centre (SIC) which allows visitors to access a wealth of sport information from just about everywhere in the world, inclusive of the IOC’s Museum and Archives.
Olympic House, headquarters of the NOC at Kingstown park, now hosts a physical Sports Information Centre which allows students at any level, including university, to access the world of sport, especially Olympic sport through available computers.
The NOA revamped its radio programme, Olympism, and produced a series of interviews of national sports heroes for television. The interviews have also been put on individual DVDs and are also featured on the website of the organisation. Those featured thus far include F O Mason, Michael Findlay, Gloria Ballantyne, Victor Peters, Orde Ballantyne and Gideon Labban. The NOA is currently in the process of producing booklets utilising the content of the interviews, a project that will continue in 2008.
The NOC received top marks from a two-member delegation from Olympic Solidarity, the development arm of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) during the period 23 – 25 November. Joanne Zipser-Graves of the Lausanne office and Richard Peterkin of the Pan American Sports Organisation’s (PASO) Solidarity Commission examined the operations of the NOC and met with affiliates and all involved in the organisations many programmes. They were truly impressed.
Of the 42 members of PASO St Vincent and the Grenadines currently ranks a creditable 18 in its use of Olympic Solidarity’s programmes. Those PASO affiliates above us have extensive access to funding outside of the ambit of Solidarity and therefore supplements the programmes and expands on them.
The National Sports Council performed as something of a mixed bag during 2007. Having lost control of the Arnos Vale Sports Complex and the Stubbs and Sion Hill playing fields the NSC had little choice but to traverse the countryside working on other fields.
One cannot lay claim to much work being accomplished by the NSC in this country. The organisation is severely restricted in its operations by the meagre budgetary allocations from the Ministry of Finance annually. It cannot fit the bill. The consequence is that the NSC cannot accomplish the requisite maintenance and rehabilitative work on the nation’s sports facilities.
Given that the NSC is very much a political plaything, it does not appear to have much choice in the pending funds from the Alba Agreement between this country and the Venezuelans. We may well find that the politicians may have more say on what areas these funds must be used than the sporting organisations who work in the field trying to help the nation’s youths with an alternative and healthy lifestyle.
Unless there are new strategies forged the NSC will remain a hand-to-mouth organisation unable to meet the challenges of what now obtains and pandering to the dictates of the ruling regime.
Tennis enjoyed yet another good year in terms of its successful hosting of the International Tennis Federation’s (ITF) Junior Tennis Tournament with Digicel as the major sponsor. The organisation did well and its hosting of the event was good enough for all visiting delegations to heap kudos on the executive. The Tournament was the single biggest of its kind ever to be hoisted here.
While there were more than 100 visitors here for the ITF Tournament we cannot say that there were any deliberate plans either by the local tennis fraternity or the Mi
nistry of Tourism, Youth and Sport, to ensure that this country benefited from what we so often boast is our new sports-tourism thrust. The athletes came, they played and they left.
Fabrice George has kept the nation’s flag flying around the region with outstanding performances in the Under 14 Tournaments. His success continued the good run of junior athletes from St Vincent and the Grenadines. He comes quickly on the heels of Corey Huggins and Kirk D Silva as well as Lerissa Morris.
Football occupied much of the attention of the media especially during the latter part of the year if only because the election of officers was pending. The live broadcast of the general meeting threw the organisation into a frenetic frenzy that proved to be significantly more embarrassing than developmental. The language proved distasteful on occasions.
At the end of the year the organisation enjoyed its best ever ranking, 76, much to the surprise of many. Interestingly, rather than enjoy the ranking, far too many Vincentians seemed to want to suggest that the reach of former president Leacock, may well have extended to facilitate FIFA doing us a favour and defying its own norms.
Football moved from a politician to a lawyer at the end of the year. The World Cup sojourn has not yet been adequately addressed and the team is yet to benefit from any of the friendlies that everyone else seems to hunger after so very much in their respective preparatory exercises.
The team in training suffers from access to an adequate facility that meets their requirements. It seems more of the same.
Kineke Alexander is the first Vincentian in any sport to attain the qualifying standards for the Beijing Olympics of 2008. She won silver at the NCAA Indoors and is just about the most successful track and field athlete the University of Iowa has ever had on its roster.
Adonson Shallow worked hard during the year leaving the hallmark of Vincentian power in the archives of the NJCAA where he won the Conference Finals and nationals respectively in the Discus Throw. Shallow also copped silver at the Inaugural NACAC Championships in El Salvador and was seventh at the Pan American Games in Brazil.
Delhonni Samuel, son of former distance running ace, Dane Samuel, formerly of Sion Hill, won bronze in the 3000m at the Carifta Games in Providenciales, Turks and Caicos.
Pamenos Ballantyne continued to run road races and engage in track competitions with mixed successes. Officially representing St Vincent and the Grenadines he won the Caricom 10K and was third in the NemWil OECS Half Marathon. He was also fourth in the UWI half Marathon.
Technical Director of TASVG, Gideon Labban, expanded the reach of the Right On Track Programme sponsored by the National Gas Company of Trinidad and Tobago, NACASC and the NOC. He has also worked on introducing the Kids In Athletics (KIA) programme of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) among the nation’s schools.