Elections are in the air.
The Prime Minister of the country is once again making promises in order to garner votes for his party.
The youths are once more considered valuable to victory at the polls for the ruling regime.
Sport ambassadors have again been named.
What else is new?
St Vincent and the Grenadines has great sporting prospects but woefully inadequate support to realise the available potential.
Sport and development
We have repeatedly advocated the adoption of physical literacy in St Vincent and the Grenadines. This is a guide to healthy living and greater commitment to individual, community and national development.
Despite St Vincent and the Grenadines’ rapidly upward climb on the totem pole of non-communicable and chronic non-communicable diseases – NCDs and CNCDs – several government agencies have inevitably missed the point in respect of the role of physical literacy in changing attitudes, the most fundamental factor in combatting the trend.
There is currently no programme in place to advise parents on the importance of physical activity to the newborn and of the immense bonding that develops once they engage in this together, as a family.
We play with the concept of wellness without really showing that we understand it in its fullness. This is to be expected since we do the same with the concept of development. It is easy to use the terms to impress listeners but another thing altogether to consistently apply the fundamental principles and gauge our progress toward established goals.
Despite overwhelming evidence the governmental authorities have consistently ignored the importance of displaying a clear understanding of the role of physical activity and sport in national development. There is no real evidence that the government an point to that is a reflection of a genuine commitment to this aspect of Vincentian life.
Individual sportspeople desirous of getting meaningful assistance to hone their skills and develop to an appreciable of competence almost inevitably have to seek the intervention of the Prime Minister and Minister of Finance. There is little chance of getting the requisite assistance from any other minister of government including the minister responsible for sport.
For all that he may otherwise claim the Prime Minister does not have a clear understanding of what constitutes physical literacy and of its immense benefits to what he touted as a wellness revolution needed by the entire Caribbean to address its increasing health problems.
It is a tremendous boon anywhere in the world to have political leaders spout glowing platitudes about the importance of wellness to a nation’s development process but unless that is translated into meaning strategies and programmes to effect change to what currently obtains they are of no significance.
In this elections season we are suddenly hearing of the government’s eagerness to support Vincy Heat in the second round preliminaries of the football World Cup 2018. It is significant that there was no such interest shown or commitment given for the country’s participation in the first round of the same competition. At the time elections were perhaps not so close according to polls and thus engagement in providing support was not an option.
With the polls showing that the elections would be close the government interest in assisting Vincy Heat is now paramount.
Some may recall that not too long ago when Vincy Heat was involved in the preparations for another World Cup, the leadership seemed to show no interest at all as they were involved in campaigning in East Kingstown. Some suggest that it was only after the loud roar of achievement when Vincy Heat scored that saw the campaigning brought to a sudden halt in East Kingstown and the hasty trek across to the Arnos Vale playing field.
It was also most significant who got the interviews following the conclusion of the particular game. The players were relegated to second and third level in being accessed for interviews.
In the interviews conducted one got the impression that sport and more particularly football, was of immense importance to the ruling regime.
Sport is, more often than not, a youth activity. Football is by far the nation’s most popular sport. It should not come as any surprise therefore that with national elections pending the coincidence of Vincy Heat’s foray in the second round preliminaries and this event makes for an ideal platform for the government given the political currency of the undertaking.
Many may recall the frequency with which Pamenos Ballantyne, at the time one of the nation’s foremost athletes, featured on political platforms as though he was not a national figure rather than a political plaything. This was in the elections campaign of 2001. Happily, other national athletes have not followed suit.
When Ballantyne seemingly lost his promised assistance programme that was initially funded with support from a private sector concern, he took to the media at every opportunity. He made enough of a furore to force the ULP administration to ensure that he was once more gainfully employed.
But the youths of today are not those of yesteryear. They are far more conscious and not easily taken in by what appears to be spontaneous generosity rather than sustainable interest in the role of sport in national development.
Increasingly, the nation’s youths have a better grasp of the importance of nation building as opposed to lip service relative to their contribution to national progress and the well being of the people.
Some years ago the current Minister of Sport engaged the Volleyball Association showing keen interest in locating the outdoor synthetic volleyball court in his constituency. Unfortunately, this did not occur because the facility for which he intended it to be used was not adequately prepared for it. It did not meet the requirements of the international federation – FIVB.
Happily, the court was located at the Girls High School, on a facility more frequently used for the sport than anywhere else in St Vincent and the Grenadines.
A second court has been provided to the volleyball federation here and once more the intention was to locate it in the constituency of the Minister of Sport. The court has been in the country for several months and once again, the facility for which it is intended has still not yet been prepared as per the requirements of the international federation.
Thus it is that while the government boasts of having the National Lotteries Authority borrow $6.5m from the National Insurance Services to be used for the upgrading and/or construction of sport facilities in St Vincent and the Grenadines, the Minister of S port has thus far been unable to get assistance to upgrade the facility in his own constituency to accommodate the volleyball court.
One would not be surprised if we learn that the international and/or continental governing bodies for volleyball move to request that the local body return the court instead of having it in a warehouse gathering dust.
This country has had several sportspeople with the capacity to make it big on the international scene.
The tinkering at the edges have seen some of them declared sport ambassadors with no clear indication of precisely what that means beyond the receipt of a diplomatic passport.
Many of these athletes have been seeking financial and other forms of support from the government but to no avail. Many may well be tired to climbing steps of the offices of different government officials almost as if they are beggars.
Not many of our athlete swill seek out the media to bemoan the lack of assistance as some others have done in the past. They wish to retain their dignity and humanity.
What are the options available to our sport prospects?
Should they continue to beg for the support needed to represent the country?
Of what value is their sporting of national colours and carrying across the world the name of our treasured country when they are consistently denied the help they need to sustain themselves through training and competition?
Beyond a continuance of lip service, answers to the foregoing questions seem in short supply even in the elections season.