$6.5m for Sports infrastructure!!!

moneyThe government of this country is now saying that for 2015 it has committed $6.5m to the development of sport infrastructure in St Vincent and the Grenadines.
The statement has come at a time when the country is preparing itself for the pending general elections due some time this year.
Is it purely coincidence that we are suddenly getting a $6.5m infusion in sport infrastructure in our country in the same year that we are due to have general elections?
Is it all about the general elections?
Is it that this is nothing more than a political ruse to appeal to the sport-loving youths of this country to get them to show up at the various polling stations to cast their vote for the ruling ULP regime?
Sport Infrastructure
For the past several years we have engaged in one analysis after another regarding the state of the nation’s sport infrastructure. Perhaps quick review is necessary here.
Cricket, Netball, squash, swimming and tennis all have their own homes. Of these three, swimming has produced in record time the most significant improvement in terms of the achievements of athletes in the sport. Not surprisingly the Swimming Association has achieved top honours at the National Sports Council’s (NSC) Awards Ceremony for the past two years.
Volleyball of the Indoor variety has had the benefit since last year of an outdoor court provided by the continental body for the international federation (NORCECA). That has been located at the Girls High School. A second outdoor court has been provided for 2015 and it is understood that it will be located in Belair.
It should be noted that the promise of an Indoor facility for basketball, boxing, netball, table tennis and volleyball has gone the way of the promise for a national stadium – onto the backburner.
There has been no official word given in respect of the dumping of the plans to create an Indoor facility on the premises that were once home to the Glove Factory.
Cricket has perhaps the most facilities under the ambit of the NSC and these receive the most attention. While other sports benefit from the use of the Arnos Vale #1, the nation’s premier outdoor facility, all area aware that it is the home of cricket. The field is manicured when we are hosting regional and international cricket matches.
The staff at the NSC has been trained to prepare cricket wickets. They have no knowledge or training in respect of the preparation of fields for other sports practised in the nation.
Athletics, rugby and football have to contend with what fields are available regardless of size and condition. Even when we have the annual Inter Secondary Schools competition where athletes are seeking to give of their best it is almost impossible to get the Arnos Vale facilities adequately rolled to allow for optimum performances.
Around St Vincent and the Grenadines Arnos Vales is the best-kept facility followed by the Victoria Park. In both instances there are resident staff. Other outdoor facilities are essentially left to their own devices.
Were it not for the initiative of Ian Sardine the NSC may never have given the Grammar School Playing Field the attention it deserves.
The goat cook matches of the Cricket World Cup of 2007 that we accepted following Bermuda’s rejection left us being told, though not necessarily convinced, that over $50m was allocated and presumably spent on developing cricket infrastructural facilities. That was eight years ago. The fields that were upgraded then were Arnos Vale #1 and #2, Sion Hill and Stubbs. Of the aforementioned only Arnos Vale #1 reflects any genuine sustainable development. Yet there are major problems that have surfaced from the very completion of the project that remain to this day with no indication of when they would be solved. The toilet facilities at the double decker stands remain a literal mess leaving the government to rent portable toilets for the annual Inter Schools Athletics Championships.
Hard courts that were created several years ago have been left to ruin with the fencing destroyed for the most part and lights in a sorry state.
The stadium remains a dream for the track and field athletes and footballers of St Vincent and the Grenadines. Some years ago it was said that once the airport at Argyle was completed the equipment would be used to construct the national stadium. One merely has to examine much of the equipment currently limping along to determine the possibility of this being the case.
Across the nation there has been no standardisation of playing facilities and literally, what you see is what you get.
Interestingly, however, the standard of the fields created at South Rivers and Parkhill is outstanding. The South Rivers’ facility is well lit and we understand that consideration is being given to lighting the one at Parkhill.
Are the Parkhill and South Rivers facilities under the administration of the National Lotteries Authority (NLA) as is the case with the Victoria Park? If this is true we are therefore pressed to ask whether this is because they two facilities are located in the Prime Minister’s constituency.
To do what?
It seems strange that in an elections year we would have a government announcement that it commits $6.5m for sport infrastructure.
As far as the author of this Column is aware there has not been, thus far, any consultation with national sports associations in respect of the current state of the facilities available or lacking relative to their respective sports.
We are also not aware of any consultation with national sports associations regarding their particular infrastructural needs in keeping with global trends a la their respective international federations.
Given the sorry state of several of our sports infrastructure, who determines which ones would be addressed with the $6.5m and to what extent?
If the CWC2007 goat cook matches cost us in excess of $50m, what can we really do with $6.5m?
What exactly does the government mean when it claims that it has allocated $6.5m to develop our sport infrastructure.
The works needed to correct the problems with the toilets at Arnos Vale #1 may well cost in excess of $1.5m. If that is done it will still leave much work at the same venue in respect of addressing the areas that have been damaged by rust due to inadequate funding of the NSC relative to on-going preventive maintenance. That could well run into another $1m.
It is extremely difficult to see the $6.5m being used to make any significant difference in the sporting infrastructure of St Vincent and the Grenadines.
Some may suggest that had the government been serious about sport the $6.5 would have been used to provide a synthetic athletics track with the appropriate concrete base at Sion Hill. This would certainly have been a great help to the thousands of athletes who have taken athletics as their preferred option.
The track surface would serve the nation is good stead and the football fraternity would be able to work with athletics on the same facility.
A synthetic track at Sion Hill will allow students from schools in the catchment area – Kingstown, Edinboro and Belair to commute with relative ease during school time for sessions that would enhance the training and competitive performances of their athletes.
Why now?
Of course many who have heard the announcement of the latest financial allocation from what appears to be a cash-strapped Vincentian government are wondering why it is that at this particular juncture the latter appears to be so generous to our sporting fraternity.
Since 2007 the government has done little to show its commitment to the development of sport via the upgrading of sport infrastructure. Now, out of the blue, as the old people would say, with no major regional and/or international competition being hosted here, the same government has found $6.5m to allocate to the development of our sport infrastructure.
In 2001 the ULP, contesting for governance of St Vincent and the Grenadines, produced a second manifesto, one that targeted the youth and especially sporting youth, of this nation. On the cover was this country’s most successful distance runner, Pamenos Ballantyne.
What was the primary objective then?
How many of the promises contained therein relative to sport and its development in St Vincent and the Grenadines have been fulfilled?
It would be interesting to see where these monies are spent and the extent to which they align with the political interests of the party that currently controls the government.
It is often the opinion of politicians that sportspeople can be persuaded by trinkets to cast their votes in support of this or that political party. Is this the case with the allocation of the $6.5m to sport infrastructure?
There may well be reason to believe that the announcement of allocating $6.5m to sport infrastructural works during this year may be nothing more than an elections gimmick aimed at garnering votes. Here again it is important to ask, is that the case this time around?