Celebrating our IOC Membership

Earlier this week, Tuesday 22 May 2012, the St Vincent and the Grenadines National Olympic Committee (NOC) observed the 25th anniversary of its membership of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) custodian of the International Olympic Movement and the Olympic Games.
Many may recall that earlier this year the NOC announced that this is a year of many celebrations for the organisation.
On 6 January 2012 the NOC observed the 30th anniversary of the founding of the organisation by Lennox Adams. It was then called the St Vincent and the Grenadines National Olympic Association.
Three months after having been established, on 6 April 1982, the NOC submitted a formal application for membership of the International Olympic Committee. Thereafter numerous challenges arose.
IOC requirements
At the time of applying for IOC membership the newly established NOC was not fully knowledgeable about the nuances of the IOC in respect of the way it facilitated getting into the organisation.
At the time of the submission of the application for membership of the IOC the latter organisation had as its Director, Madame Monique Berlioux, an outstanding sports personality who had served France and the International Olympic Movement with distinction. She had been appointed to the post of IOC Director in 1966 and ended her service in 1985.
In many respects the way in which Made Berlioux addressed the NOC’s application was typically French in character and came as something of a shock to the members of the fledgling NOC here in St Vincent and the Grenadines.
There are many who had to deal with Madame Berlioux who admitted that while she was super efficient she was nonetheless considered almost inflexible in respect of the application of the rules of the IOC. St Vincent and the Grenadines learnt of this the hard way.
The IOC had to vet the constitution of the organisation and this did not come very easy. The NOC sought and obtained the assistance of Parnel Campbell in respect of the constitution.
Just when it was thought that everything was in place the IOC reminded the organisation that five of its members must also be members of their respective international federations (IF). At least three of the five must be involved in sports on the Olympic Programme.
At the time of this discussion with Madame Berlioux the NOC had among its membership Athletics, Bodybuilding, Boxing, Cycling and Netball. Of these, only Athletics and Netball were considered financial and in good standing with their respective IFs.
The NOC then approached the Minister of Sport, Jeremiah Scott, who readily persuaded the government to provide the financial assistance to have the remaining members make good on their outstanding debts with their respective IFs. This ten cleared the way for accessing IOC membership.
Once the IOC accepted the NOC into its membership fold the way was cleared for membership of the Pan American Sports Organisation (PASO) – the continental arm of the IOC – and the Central American and Caribbean Sports Organisation (CACSO). These were formalised at the respective General Assemblies held in San Juan, Puerto Rico, in November 1988. In the same year the NOC also became the official representative body at the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF), replacing the St Vincent and the Grenadines Amateur Athletics Association (SVGAAA) – now Team Athletics St Vincent and the Grenadines (TASVG), which had been on the body since 1958 when the country first participated in the Commonwealth Games (then called Empire Games).
The NOC also gained membership of the international parent body for the World University Student Games – FISU.
As with most NOCs around the world at the time the Vincentian organisation began by focusing on participation in Games held under the auspices of the IOC. Because the IOC affiliation came close to the Pan American Games scheduled for Indianapolis in the summer of 1987, the NOC opted not to participate in what would have been its first Games since gaining IOC membership.
It took another year though before the NOC participated in its first Olympic Games. This was in Seoul, South Korea, in 1988.
The nation’s first outing at the prestigious Games was not by any means impressive. The boxer, Hudson Nanton, never got to the ring to engage in the competition for which he was selected. There was a problem when a US-based athlete, Michelle Finn, not selected by the local athletics body or the NOC arrived at the Games Village only to be denied entry because she was never accredited. Orde Ballantyne was injured while doing the long jump and felt that he did not receive the attention from the team’s athletics coach that was required at the time.
The NOC participated in its first Central American and Caribbean Games (CAC) in Mexico City in December 1990 and in its first Pan American Games in Havana, Cuba, in 1991 where it achieved a fourth place in the 4 x 100m relay.
While Maurice King was the first Vincentian athlete to win a medal – bronze – at the Pan American Games it was as a member of the West Indies Olympic Committee recognised by the IOC when the Caribbean had established the West Indies Federation. This was at the Pan American Games in 1959, Chicago, Illinois. This country’s first medal at a major Games after the establishment and IOC recognition of the NOC came from Eswort Combs at the Pan American Games in Mar del Plata, Argentina, in March 1995. Coombs won the bronze meal in the 400m.
Coombs also won the gold medal at the World University Students Games in Fukuoka, Japan, later that same year.
Natasha Mayers won gold at the Commonwealth Games in Delhi, India in October 2010 and Kineke Alexander won bronze at the CAC Game sin Cartagena, Colombia, in 2006.
The NOC has focused on the development of sport at the local level in a variety of ways.
The NOC has consistently focused on the development of the nation’s athletes. Perhaps the most significant of its programmes has been the Grassroots Talent Identification Programme (GTIP) that takes coaches throughout the country introducing the children and youths to the fundamentals of the respective sports.
It was perhaps most rewarding to hear the Volleyball fraternity offer accolades for the NOC in so far as the recent team that qualified for the second round of competition in the FIVB World Championships 2013 programme is comprised of the junior athletes almost all of whom came through the sport’s GTIP, sponsored by the NOC.
Prior to each edition of the Olympic Games the NOC has accessed Olympic scholarships for athletes to engage in training as they seek to make the established standards to qualify as well as complete their preparation for the world’s greatest sporting spectacle.
All eligible national sports associations in the membership of the NOC have received technical courses over the years of the organisation’s membership of the IOC. These courses have facilitated the training of coaches to better serve their respective associations in training Vincentian athletes.
Some associations have also benefitted from advanced coaching courses abroad while some have also had the benefit of a four – six months programme aimed at Developing a National Sport Structure for their organisations under the guidance of an international expert.
National associations thrive best when there is good, competent leadership. The NOC has been providing training for administrators at all levels both at home and abroad. This has led to several national associations being better equipped for delivering quality service to their membership.
Attention has also been place don community-based sporting organisations since they play an important role in the development of national sports.
The founding fathers of the IOC have always returned to the fundamental principles of the Greeks in establishing the Ancient Olympics – the harmonious development of mind, body and spirit. The modern concept of Olympism speaks to these principles.
The NOC has, since gaining IOC membership, sought to promote the Olympic values inherent in the concept of Olympism. There is a Sport and Culture programme that addresses the inculcation of positive values amongst the nation’s sporting fraternity.
Despite not having won any Olympic medals as yet the NOC can feel justly proud of its achievements over the years.
In early March the NOC launched the publication, Our History, a document that chronicles the organisation’s pathway to where it is today.  This is but the latest in a series of publications undertaken by the nOC over the years. More publications are on the way.
Several DVDs have already been produced on Vincentian sporting heroes, a lasting legacy for the nation.
Each year the NOC identifies and awards an outstanding sports leader who would have contributed significantly to the broader national sport development process.
Clearly there is much more to be done. The resources are slender and the facilities out of sync with internationally acceptable standards.
Our coaches can and must do more to assist our athletes to attain higher levels of success at the regional and international levels.
The fact is though that despite the limitations the NOC has delivered what no other sporting organisation has been able to do in the years of its existence.
In any given year the NOC does much more in developmental initiative for sport than any other institution in St Vincent and the Grenadines.
Congratulations to the NOC.
Forward to many more years of progress.