A most challenging athletics season in 2010

We are in the midst of what is usually seen as the track and field season in athletics. Everywhere schools, primary and secondary, are holding their respective annual athletics competitions.
On 18 March there will be the Heats for the girls for the Inter Secondary Track and Field Championships 2010. On that same day the boys will contest the 5000m Open. The following day, 19 March, it will be the turn of the boys to have their Heats and the girls will contest the finals of the 3000m Open. The Inter Secondary School Track and Field Championships Finals are set for 25 March. All of the foregoing competitions are being held at the Arnos Vale # 1 Playing Field.
Ask any of the school principals, Physical Education Teachers or track and field athletes and the response will be the same. This has been one of the most challenging years for track and field athletics in St Vincent and the Grenadines.
The consensus is that come Inter Secondary Schools Track and Field Championships there will be bragging rights at stake but the performances will hardly match the requirements for regional and international competitions.
CWC2007 Legacy
The legacy of the Cricket World Cup 2007 has been an Arnos Vale # 1 that needs greater attention than perhaps anticipated and planned for. Soil tests had to be conducted in order to better attend to the field. The surface only now appears to be settling and this is providing a number of additional problems to the staff responsible for its maintenance.
Arnos Vale # 2 was originally in receipt of the same kind of work undertaken with the neighbouring Arnos Vale # 1 in preparation for the World Cup. However, it appeared that not enough attention was paid to the preparation of this facility. It received the second-class attention to which many have grown accustomed.
As the World Cup drew closer it became obvious that the Arnos Vale # 2 was going to be used for purposes other than the playing of cricket. It became host to a number of overlay tents the placement of which seemingly undid everything that was originally invested.
During the hosting of the ‘goat cook’ matches here it became very clear that Arnos Vale # 2 reflected the chronic wastage of resources that no one wanted to see happen. For all of the resources pumped into the facility initially in the preparatory exercise it was truly embarrassing to see the carnage that was done to it when the overlay was set up. It did not take a genius to recognise that Arnos Vale # 2 would be relegated to the same status it had prior to the World Cup once the overlay was removed.
The same Cricket World Cup 2007 legacy left a decidedly sandy Stubbs playing that is today known as ‘the beach’. One is not at all certain what went wrong when this arena was being prepared for the Cricket World Cup.
Sion Hill is somewhat better yet well below required standard. Here again those responsible for the preparation of the facility for the World Cup seemed not to have had the long-term vision and obviously appeared ignorant of the requirements for a sustainable surface.
The problem therefore is that the four fields that would have been the recipient of massive infusion of funds are yet to reflect the kind of resources that were initially allocated and which, from all reports, were expended there.
Preparation/availability of Fields
In several previous articles we have examined the situation in respect of the sporting facilities in St Vincent and the Grenadines. This is one of the sore points in the current dispensation.
People have come to the point where they are forced to conclude that they can no longer accept mere lip service to sport. The reality on the ground does not seem to do justice to all that has been said by the current administration in respect of a genuine commitment to sport.
For the past year and more we have been hearing of the commitment to provide adequate playing fields and other sports facilities around the country. This Columnist has, on several occasions, highlighted the frequency with which political criteria rather than sport, appear to determine the location of playing fields. This has resulted in many of the facilities being essentially inappropriate for the purposes for which they were originally intended.
During the course of 2009 it became obvious that several of the nation’s playing fields and hard courts were not up to expected standard.
During the track and field season this year however the schools found themselves in a major quandary.
Arnos Vale # 1 and # 2
Athletics authorities were assured that a 400m track would have been located on the outer perimeter of the cricket arena. The reality is that a ‘barrel hoop’ was what was apparently contemplated; a circuit with no straights. This could never have served athletics by any stretch of the imagination.
Where the field is usually laid out to facilitate the 350m track with eight lanes the surface is still heavily sand-based, thereby rendering it extremely difficult for athletes to record fast times.
During the current athletics season it was clear that with the number of regional and international commitments to cricket it was not possible for much athletics activities to be conducted at this arena.
At the beginning of the year schools which had originally planned their schools sports for Arnos Vale were informed that they could not be accommodated any more. They were told that they would have to seek alternative venues. Bear in mind that the principals and the Ministry of Education engaged in a heroic effort to get dates from schools well ahead of time to facilitate proper planning for the season.
Team Athletics St Vincent and the Grenadines (TASVG), which would have prepared and submitted its 2010 calendar of activities to the National Sports Council (NSC) since August 2009, suffered the same fate in the early part of the season.
This is part of the travesty with Arnos Vale # 1. It is the home of cricket and therefore, however much others may plan for the use of the facility well in advance, once cricket gets anything regional and/or international, everyone else is expected to give way. This also has to be seen in the context of there being no other outdoor facility of similar standard despite the millions expended in preparation for CWC2007.
During the season, the unavailability of prepared venues caused the NSC to review its original stance in respect of usage of Arnos Vale # 1 for athletics competitions. The NSC, to its credit, facilitated as many schools as possible leaving adequate time for the preparation for the regional and international cricket. Not many schools benefitted, however.
Arnos Vale # 2 was in no state of readiness for athletics competition. This facility is now being given the kind of attention that is required to bring it up to standard.
By the time the resources to work on this facility became available the season was well on and the surface was not of the best. Only recently one athlete actually had the cleat from one of his spikes broken off completely because of some small stones in the mix.
Arnos Vale # 2 remains a very tough playing arena with little by way of facilities to accommodate participants except tents are provided. During the season the field was under repairs and unsuited to the hosting of school competitions. It was even difficult for training purposes.
St Vincent Grammar School
The St Vincent Grammar School, easily the single most used sorting facility in St Vincent and the Grenadines, has the hardest surface of all. Poor management and maintenance has ensured that it was not in any proper state for sporting activities of any real standard.
The staff opted to fill in the track that had become a drain on the field. Another track was marked one metre or so outside the original mark thereby expanding the size of the lap. The surface remained very tough for the athletes and lanes could not be put in place. All schools that chose the Grammar School Playing Field for their annual sports would have had their athletes experience one of the toughest test in their entire sporting career.
It should also be noted that while the Grammar School Playing Field hosted several school sports it remains an unsuitable venue for such activities. The sanitary facilities are woefully in need of significant upgrade and the accommodation requires much by way of attention.
For whatever reason the arena remains like a veritable dust bowl, an unhealthy facility for track and field athletics competition, especially for children of school age.
Athletics authorities find great difficulty placing an appropriate track on the Stubbs field to facilitate training and competition.
The prevalence of so much dust on any given day remains a major health hazard and given this year’s particularly harsh dry spell, the situation was much worse than hitherto.
Sion Hill
Sion Hill has still not been adequately prepared for track and field athletics competition. There is extensive work being undertaken even now. The mound is being removed and the soil being used to mix with the sand that currently forms the base.
The heavy sand base at Sion Hill is a major hindrance to the optimal performances of track and field athletes. It is the reason why it has not been used much for athletics since 2007.
Victoria Park
The Victoria Park has been amongst the most used for schools athletics competitions in the 2010 season. The National Lotteries Authority did have a major mix-up in respect of the Girls High School’s Sports Day when they indicated that the facility was read when indeed it was still under repairs. Since then however, together with the authorities at the Division of Sports and Physical Education, the Victoria Park played host to several sports meets.
Buccament Bay
Although not possessive of sanitary facilities the Buccament Bay Playing Field served the schools in the area well. Given the proximity of the Buccament Bay Secondary School to the field the sanitation problem was easily resolved.
The surface proved quite good for competition, preliminary and finals.
Campden Park
The Campden park Playing Field falls in the same category as that at Buccament, although the latter is a much better facility. There are no sanitation facilities in the arena and it is only the proximity of the Campden Park Secondary School that allowed use of the facility for their preliminary competitions.
Penn Relays
Athletics authorities in this country have been approached on several occasions by Vincentians living in Pennsylvania to have representative teams at the prestigious Penn Relays. Unfortunately the rules of the competition stipulate that the teams must come from one school. Given the state of our facilities it would be a very long time before any school will have enough access to a proper facility in this country at which to train consistently enough to elevate their standards such that we could get a team worthy of competing at the Penn Relays. It is certainly not possible in 2010 and looks just as bad for 2011.
The absence of the much-promised national stadium remains one of the greatest blights