For the past several years this column has focused on the many critical issues plaguing the development of sports at the national level. It remains important for us o maintain this focus if we are serious about sports and not merely paying lip service. This Columnist has already addressed the extensive politicking that has been a characteristic feature of the operations of the National Sports Council (NSC) regardless of which party is in government and of the negative impact this has on the development process.
Genuine development It has always been maintained by economists the world over that genuine national development is about people. It is about improving the quality of life of the people in a particular country.
The quadrennial World Cup of Football moves centre stage in a few weeks time and many enthusiastic supporters have already secured their tickets and booked passages for Germany, host of the worlds second largest sporting event. The Olympic Games remains the worlds greatest sporting spectacle. This year, as has become something of a norm, certainly for the past three World Cups, the South American football powerhouse, Brazil, enters the World Cup Finals as firm favourites. They are expected to come away as the first team to secure six liens on the prestigious Cup. The football pundits have long since concluded that while England has been credited with making the game of football popular, while not having invented it, the Brazilians have been credited with bringing the dribbling skills to an art in the sport. But this years World Cup will certainly churn up some surprises as has been the case in previous editions. Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown and there are many teams, coaches and managers who, like their supporters, would relish taking home the World Cup.
During the past week sports enthusiasts in St Vincent and the Grenadines may well have experienced some of the consequences of inadequate planning for sports development. Of course this is nothing new. However, one would have imagined that at this stage we would have learnt to do better.
Development of fields In previous articles the point was made that the relevant authorities seemed not to have had things fully in hand relative to the development of playing fields across the nation. There seems to be certain haphazardness in respect of where fields are located and which fields are developed when. Much of this has been determined more by the politicians in their zeal to win votes than by the needs of people and the pertinent national sports association. The result has been that one is never able to ascertain from the National Sports Council the true state of playing fields in St Vincent and the Grenadines.
The West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) has seemingly been forced to admit that it has failed to systematically develop the game of cricket in the Caribbean. That is perhaps one of the interpretations that can be placed on the WICBs recent decision to return the captaincy of the West Indies Cricket team to Brian Charles Lara, the Prince of Port of Spain. Late last week the WICB announced that Lara will serve as captain for the current tour against Zimbabwe and seemingly, through to the World Cup. Lara has long insisted that he will retire from competitive cricket following the conclusion of the Cricket World Cup 2007. The announcement was met with an array of comments across the entire Caribbean as well as amongst cricketing nations the world over.
The field of sports in St Vincent and the Grenadines is replete with examples of individuals who have received varying levels of training in one or more aspects of the sports development process but who have failed to involve themselves as was originally expected when they were selected for training. The magnitude of this problem cannot be overstated. The same can be said of the negative impact that this reality is having on the sports movement in the country.
Training In St Vincent and the Grenadines we have been very fortunate in respect of the extent of training opportunities available to the various national sporting organisations. Training opportunities are made available to some national sports associations by their respective international federations.
The 35th edition of the annual Carifta Games ended in Guadeloupe earlier this week and once more, almost like a stuck record the Jamaicans retained their dominance of these most exciting developmental track and field championships in the world. At the conclusion of Carifta Games 2006 the medals tally showed Jamaica emerging with a massive 39 gold, 21 silver and 8 bronze. The nearest rival was the Bahamas with 9 nine gold, 11 silver and 10 bronze with Trinidad and Tobago next, having achieved 8 gold, 11 silver and 14 bronze. Jamaicas performance at the Carifta Games this year saw a closure of the gap between the performances of the boys and girls. The medal haul of the Jamaican girls was 20 gold, 10 silver and one bronze, as opposed to the boys who garnered 19 gold, 11 silver and seven bronze. It suddenly seems like the advancement of the girls in the region now extends well beyond the realm of academics. To many present it was like déjà vu. The string of victories by the Jamaicans seemed almost inevitable.
Some time ago this column called on the then Minister of Education, Youth and Sport, John Horne, to go straight to the heart of the matter in respect of sporting development in St Vincent and the Grenadines by getting the job done and spend less time taking on the role of the politician by talking plenty. Perhaps the message takes some time to get through to politicians who seem to take delight in talking plenty and in the end doing much less than they had promised. Politicians seem too disposed to making promises as though it is an integral part of their respective portfolios.
Promises At the opening of this years Cable and Wireless Netball Tournament the newly appointed Minister of Tourism, Youth and Sport, Glen Beache, took the most unfortunate decision to seize the opportunity provided him at the podium to engage himself in the political role of his predecessors. Like those before him it appears that he felt it incumbent upon him to make some promises to the netball fraternity. On Sunday last the Minister thought it necessary to highlight the promises relating to the transformation of the Arnos Vale Sports Complex, the National Stadium and the attendant facilities that are expected to be located at Diamond.
We cant allow the cost to run away (Dr Ralph Gonsalves, quoted in The Vincentian Friday 24 March 2006). It seemed rather interesting and perhaps a little scary to have read the aforementioned words of Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves after his recent visit to the Arnos Vale Playing Field to inspect the progress of work at the facility relative to the preparations for the Cricket World Cup 2007 (CWC 2007). Rather disturbingly, the aforementioned document also quotes Dr Gonsalves thus: some of the numbers have ballooned so large that we are satisfied that savings can be made also in those areas.
Déjà vu or what? It seems almost déjà vu to learn that the Prime Minister is now expressing his apparent concern for the costs involved in this Caribbean regions hosting of the prestigious CWC2007. The recent comments attributed to the Prime Minister are even more particularly disturbing when one acknowledges that Dr Gonsalves is also the Minister of Finance. One is forced to ask however, on whose advice did the Minister of Finance make his initial comments and suggest budgetary allocation in respect of the Vincentian component of the CWC2007 of approximately $20m? Was it the officials in the Ministry of Finance?
It is with the grestest of joy that I stand before you today enjoined with our sporting colleagues to briefly express our sincere gratitude to Melbourne. The Commonwealth Games are called The Friendly Games, and indeed, justifiably so. For friendship has been our singularly most characteristic feature since arriving in Melbourne. Melbournes place in international sporting history was secured when you hosted the 1956 Summer Olympic Games. What you have done for these 18th Commonwealth Games is no less historic. Your taking of the Queens Baton Relay to every Commonwealth Games Association in the member nations of the Commonwealth and the coverage this received is matched only by the immense excitement its presence generated everywhere.
The recent world record One Day International Cricket performances by both Australia and South Africa in the recent past have caused quite a stir in international circles in respect of the game. In the aforementioned match both teams averaged in excess of eight runs per over for 50 overs. Australia, batting first, established a new One Day International Cricket world record when the team amassed 434 for the loss of only four wickets in their allotted 50 overs. At the time of the record-breaking achievement there were few critics anywhere in the world who would have wagered that it would be easily broken. Yet, before the end of the days play, Australia watched hopelessly as the South Africans achieved the mammoth total, losing eight wickets in the process. All hailed the new world record holders, South Africa.