“Young me dream dreams”
That’s the old saying that means so very much. It is a saying that captures the ebullience of youth around the world at a stage in their lives when caution is so often thrown to the wind and everything seems possible.
Young people, regardless of ethnicity, race, beliefs, geographical location, class and status, all dream. The ebullience of youth allows them, as of right, to dream of endless possibilities in their lives. Nothing seems insurmountable, in their eyes.
In advanced countries in the world young people are often given the opportunity to advance themselves with a view to being allowed to participate in the decision-making process.
Here in St Vincent and the Grenadines, we boast of the so-called, “Education Revolution” yet appear all too often to deny the youths of the nation the opportunity to eagerly participate in the broader national decision-making process.
In reality, we come across as stifling the very innovative eagerness which we attribute to ebullient youths of the country while bragging of just how much we are committed to their educational development.
Political prejudice is more important than educational acumen in determining who gets where to do what in Vincentian society today.
Political will
Successive generations of sportspeople in St Vincent and the Grenadines have dreamt of the day when it would be possible for them to realize their full potential and stand tall alongside their counterparts across the globe in the sports practiced here.
Many an athlete in one sport or another longed for the day when the facilities here would match the mouthings of the political leaders regardless of which political party controlled the reigns of government.
We have always been told that sport must have nothing to do with politics. However, this approach suggests a failure on the part of members of society to understand precisely what politics is about.
In its most basic definition, politics is about decision-making. It is about how decisions are made, who are the key influencers and on what basis they can wield such influence. It is about who gets what among the spoils available to the peoples of a nation and the critical factors that determine why this is the case.
In St Vincent and the Grenadines, much like the rest of the Caribbean, we have all been told that sport is really frivolous activity for the filthy rich. At least this was what obtained under colonialism and in its immediate aftermath.
The political will in this part of the world, even in the days of colonization, saw sport as essentially a pastime. We are familiar with the ways in which the masters and their relatives ensured that their leisure time was spent practicing physical activity with the slaves and their successive generations were used to serve the former on the field of play. It was merely a transfer to the sport arena of what obtained in the fields in which they left their sweat and blood without recompense of any sort.
In the Post Independence period in the Caribbean, one Caribbean political leader after another sought to convince, first themselves and secondly, the unsuspecting yet adoring electorate, that they somehow cared for them in the holistic sense. The reality has proven the opposite.
There exists today, no genuine political will in the Caribbean that places physical literacy, physical activity and sport at the centre of a nation’s development pathway. The latter are always marginal. One has only to examine the distribution of portfolios of governments in the Caribbean to understand that sport is of little consequence to national development.
The introduction of the concept of sport tourism is yet to positively impact governance in St Vincent and the Grenadines.
Our politicians pay lip service to sport. Few even know of the concept of physical literacy and even less, how this stands alongside numeracy and literacy in fashioning human life and society.
It is not surprising therefore that in St Vincent and the Grenadines, sport is given to an individual who does not understand its importance to national development and who lacks the capacity to influence the decision0making process relative to physical literacy, physical activity and sport.
Undoubtedly, a few Caribbean politicians, steeped in intellectualism, have written scholarly documents on sport and its role in regional liberation, the vast majority who even dare to speak of a role for sport in contemporary Caribbean society. While so many grasped the chance to have their names called, even if for goat cook matches, during the Cricket World Cup 2007, the legacy of this otherwise mega sport event remains particularly absent from the consciousness of the peoples of the Caribbean.
National Stadium
The promise of a national stadium has been a feature of Vincentian sporting history for decades. This has not bothered successive generations of political leaders of this country. Each one merely promises the nation’s youths a national stadium.
In 2001, the ULP leadership went farther than any previous political party by selling the Vincentian electorate a Youth Manifesto, with Pamenos Ballantyne, once this country and the region’s leading distance runner, on the cover.
The national stadium has still not been realized despite the initial financial input from the Libyan leader at the time, Muammar Gadhafi.
Successive generations of track and field athletes and footballers have yearned for the day when they would not have to depend on the national and international Cricket schedules to determine when they can access the premier grassed surface at Arnos Vale.
The dog fight for facilities reached a head when footballers resisted every attempt by local authorities to cement Cricket as the national sport and therefore access to Victoria Park in addition to the official home at Arnos Vale.
St Vincent and the Grenadines track and field athletes represented the small nation at the British Empire Games in Cardiff, Wales, in 1958 and again in Kingston, Jamaica, in 1966. Medals have been won in this sport at the Commonwealth Games, Pan American Games and Central American and Caribbean Games, all with the absence of a synthetic surface and national stadium.
Our footballers distinguished themselves on several occasions. Many recall the exciting defeat we handed Suriname at the Caribbean level and our initial World up experience that saw Mori Millington coach the national side to the second round in the CONCACAF leg.
Today we have Rugby also seeking use of a national stadium.
There is as yet no assurance of a time frame within which we can expect a national stadium in St Vincent and the Grenadines.
Indoor Sports Complex
It has been several years since talks began about the construction of an Indoor Sports facility for St Vincent and the Grenadines.
The vision of Cecil Cyrus led him to create what has become known now at the National Squash Complex, hosted in the same building as the National Lotteries Authority (NLA).
In todays’ sport world Netball is also included amongst the indoor sports. This therefore means that in St Vincent and the Grenadines we have Netball, Karate, Table Tennis, Boxing, Taekwondo, Squash, Basketball and Volleyball as indoor sports. Of these, only Squash has its own facility. The others have to contend with the reality that there seems little interest in the provision of an indoor facility that could accommodate them.
One can readily understand that Squash courts are very special and must be used only by the practitioners of the sport. The other indoor sports can be practiced in the same facility.
Some time ago it was said that the building that was once occupied by the Glove Factory would be concerted into an indoor sports complex. This was like music to the ears of those who play indoor sports. The idea of finally having a modern indoor sports complex would mean that they would be better able to train and compete in conditions similar to that which their international counterparts use.
Admittedly there were some persons in authority here who held the view that the old glove factory building was on prime land in the nation’s capital and that it would have constituted a waste of valuable property.
International standard indoor sport facilities tend to be constructed in such a way that minor adjustments can readily allow the same arena to be used by several different sporting disciplines. This is what many here thought was being planned.
Time went by and it soon enough became clear that the facility would not be constructed any time soon. It was later openly stated that the facility would not be constructed at the originally designated site. This was most disappointing, if only because the national sports associations in need of an indoor facility really expected that they would have had a better chance of preparing themselves to compete with their international rivals.
Today, the Vincentian national sports associations of indoor sports remain in dire need of an indoor facility. This is critical to the development strategies they would wish to implement to achieve success at the regional and international competitions.
At present the governmental authorities have not given any indication that there is an intention to provide indoor national sports associations with an indoor facility that they can share.
There is much potential amongst the Vincentian sporting fraternity regarding the indoor sports. Table Tennis has also the additional support of a Foundation established by Georg Silberschmidt, a move that could see a tremendous increase in the number of persons involved in the sport.
Vincentian youth must continue to dream. The Vincentian talent pool in respect of sport is large. We have to commit to doing better in the future.
Politicians come and go but our youths must continue to dream of one day being able to benefit from the opportunities that exist in sport.
Never let the authorities cajole you into believing that only when they think it necessary we can achieve our very best.
Turn your inhibitions into opportunities to better one’s self.
Success is only as far away as we allow it to be.
Determination is our best option when excellence is our goal