From Glasgow to Vera Cruz
For the past two weeks the nations of the Commonwealth focused on the 20th edition of the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, Scotland.
If course attention as already on Glasgow given that the Scots are committed to a referendum on breaking away from the United Kingdom scheduled to take place next month.
The Scots displayed good manners and adhered to due protocol by paying homage to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and loudly welcoming the England team at the Opening Ceremony of the aforementioned Games. Indeed, given the conduct of the Scots at the Opening ceremony one would never have guessed that a referendum on their separation from the United Kingdom was ever on the cards.
The Games have come to an end and the hosts, like the participants, are now focused on the legacy issues. Many are asking themselves to what extent has hosting the 20th edition of the Commonwealth Games positively impacted Glasgow and indeed the whole of Scotland.
Importantly for the sports tourism enthusiasts it is important to assess the overall economic impact the Games have had on Scotland.
There was an influx in Scotland of thousands of people from the different member nations and territories of the Commonwealth as they eagerly watched the Games. The venues were filled to capacity for the most part and like the Olympic Games held in England two years earlier, many felt that these were the best Commonwealth Games of all time.
Usain Bolt and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, the world’s fastest man and woman respectively, showed up to the immensely attract sporting party in Glasgow, officially recognised as the 20th Commonwealth Games.
Insiders knew all along that Glasgow had done the work enough to be guaranteed that both of these athletes would be in attendance but may have wanted, like the host organiser, to keep it as something of a surprise.
Both athletes were somewhat unlucky as they got injured along the way. Fraser-Pryce had made a good start to the outdoor season before falling prey to injury that kept her out of further competition for some time. Happily she came to Glasgow eager to run.
For his part Bolt suffered an early setback and could not start training as originally planned.
Interestingly the status of each of the two aforementioned athletes on the world stage at this juncture in their careers is now such that they cannot afford to involve themselves in competition if their feel in any way that the competitive edge is significantly dulled. Their value would drop and immensely so.
Both Fraser-Pryce and Bolt participated in Glasgow, much to the delight of the highly appreciative and knowledgeable crowd. This took the 20th Commonwealth Games to new heights.
There is much that we should understand in respect of the Commonwealth Games.
When Malaysia hosted the Games in 1998, it was the ushering in of a new phase in the quadrennial event.
The Malaysians packaged and delivered a bid befitting the Olympic Games, a feat that left Adelaide, Australia, badly shaken in defeat. The vote took place during the Olympic Games in Barcelona, Spain in 1992.
Cricket was on the programme for the first time and proved so much of a hit that the International Cricket Council has seen hesitant to grant approval for the inclusion of the sport since.
Glasgow delivered a bid similar in many respects to that of Malaysia. They delivered Olympic class competition facilities and a Games Village that would be the envy of any Olympic Games organisers.
Athletes love crowds, especially those that are knowledgeable about sport and who immerse themselves fully in its competitions. This was one of the remarkable features of Glasgow 2014 and the likes of Bolt and other elite athletes from around the Commonwealth thoroughly enjoyed themselves competing and sharing the atmosphere.
The volunteers were simply tremendous, willing and eager to be at the service of the participants without ever being servile.
For our own St Vincent and the Grenadines the 20th Commonwealth Games proved as challenging as ever.
Perhaps we should preface this aspect of the Games by saying that we in St Vincent and the Grenadines believe in medals. We do not seem eager to understand the importance of athletes achieving their personal best performances in competition.
For the individual coach and athlete the importance of participating in competition is to perform at one’s best. Ideally the athlete and coach would want to win medals but that takes time and it is based on the progression of the athlete over his/her years of involvement.
The Vincentian team did what many believe was the best possible at the time and under the conditions to which they were exposed. This is not to justify how they performed but rather to engage in some form of analysis of those performances.
Kineke Alexander was again the most outstanding athlete for St Vincent and the Grenadines by reaching the finals of the 400m contest. Some may say, with some measure of justification, that by this time Kineke should be more consistently among the medallists in competition. It was clear that her fourth place semi final run would have stretched her and it was unlikely that her recovery would have been adequate for the finals of the following day.
The performances of the men’s relay team in establishing a new national record is commendable.
The swimmers showed remarkable improvement, a feat that was evident in the large number of personal bests achieved in the pool. This of course is a reflection of the decision by the local association to invest more heavily in a group if identified talented athletes who have been taken to swim camps in Florida and numerous competitions around the Caribbean.
Some suggest that this may well be an approach of all national associations because they do not have the resources to invest heavily in all of their athletes. This of course may not necessarily meet with the approval of some coaches and athletes.
The Squash and Table Tennis players, like the others on the Vincentian team, found the going tough but there were signs of improvement on all sides, a welcome development and a reflection of the efforts being made to take the respective sports to another level and augurs well for the future.
Vera Cruz 2014
The good coaches believe that it takes a minimum of six years to take an athlete through to joining the ranks of the elite and another two years to attain world champion status. But this stance is often not understood by the average man in the street who believes that our athletes should be successful every time they compete. It does not seem to matter that there is little financial and material support for the athletes in their preparation over the years.
Few took Pamenos Ballantyne seriously some time ago when he declared that he was running on empty. He was appealing for support to get himself adequately prepared for the competitions that would take him to a higher level.
Vera Cruz, Mexico, will host the 22nd Central American and Caribbean Games during the period 14 – 30 November 2014. For some sports this is a very bad time of the year.
The track and field athletes would be engaged in the preparation for the competitive season of 2015 and this competition would prove a challenge. There is also a difficulty in getting the best athletes to participate even if they meet the qualifying standards. This is not unique to St Vincent and the Grenadines but is also the case with the majority of Caribbean countries.
Already Taekwondo has qualified four athletes for Vera Cruz, having done well at the Table Tennis and Squash still have to get past the qualification competitions. Cycling has been allocated two competitors in the Road Race and Road Time Trial. Selection for Swimming, like Athletics, would be based on times established by the respective regional Confederations.
This is the very first time that the CAC Games is applying a quota system that means all athlete smust qualify in order to compete at the Games. This would essentially mean that the team would be smaller until such time as our athletes get more competitive at the Central American and Caribbean level.
The international sports calendar suggests that our coaches must prepare their athletes on a consistent basis.
The different sports associations must access higher levels of sponsorship and so too the clubs that comprise them.
The National Olympic Committee too must seek additional resources to facilitate success on the part of our athletes.
St Vincent and the Grenadines possesses immense talent. This talent must be identified and harnessed to higher levels of training and competition.
Vera Cruz is but another opportunity to showcase what we are capable of doing with our talented athletes.