Let the Games begin

Teams from Dominica, Grenada and St Lucia, arrive in St Vincent and the Grenadines today to join the host in the annual WINLOTT Windward Islands Schools Games (WISG2017). This country would be hosting the mega sporting event starting tomorrow through to 29 July with the visitors leaving the following day, 30 July. There is one rest day.
Organisers of the event are hopeful that with schools on vacation there is enough interest generated by the advertisements and the locally selected athletes to ensure that there are patrons at the various competitions supporting the local teams but also supporting the Games, more generally.
Sponsors of the event, WINLOTT, has again been generous and so too the individual Lotteries in the respective countries.
In St Vincent and the Grenadines, gratitude has been expressed several times over to the National Lotteries Authority (NLA) which also sponsors the annual Inter Schools Athletics Championships, and the government, for their continued support to the WINLOTT WISG2017.
Effective tomorrow, the participants would compete for sporting supremacy in the Windward Islands, a challenge that has a very exciting history that is not often given the credit that is its due.
As the older ones who served s pioneers to this historic event leave us it is important to express our gratitude for the trail that they blazed.
While every team desires to win both the respective sport and the overall title at the end of the day much more is achieved merely by the presence and participation of all of the individual members Not much recognition in given to this fact.
The sports being contested are Athletics, Basketball (male and female), Football, Netball and Volleyball (male and female).
Today it is often a struggle to get our young athletes to see the big picture of the significance of this annual event.
The annual WINLOTT WISG2017 has numerous legacies which we find it necessary to highlight in this week’s Column.
Sport infrastructure
While all of the countries of the Windward grouping boast of a significant amount of sport infrastructure, not all are at the same level. For example, neither Dominica nor St Vincent and the Grenadines possesses a synthetic track for the Athletics competition. However, the four countries agree that the existence of a grassed surface would serve the requirements of the competition just as well.
Governments nonetheless, in hosting the annual event, are always called upon to ensure that the sport infrastructure required to bring the competitions to an acceptable level is accomplished. This means that governments are expected to provide the funding necessary to allow for the existing sport infrastructure to be appropriately upgraded in time for the event. This usually means that fields are properly rolled and marked, hardcourts are repaired and painted and the Games Village, usually a school capable of accommodating 280 persons (athletes and team officials) is repaired, showers and laundry facilities added with prayer, administration, medical and meeting rooms designated and outfitted.
In hosting this year’s event once more at the West St George Secondary School the government faced major challenges but accomplished the task nonetheless. The school was badly burglarised. The works undertaken by BRAGSA to do the requisite repairs serve not only our visitors’ needs for the Games but those of the Ministry of Education for the pending academic school year.
The much anticipated hard court development at Gomea was finally completed in preparation for the WINLOTT WISG2017. The national Volleyball association officially located the second outdoor synthetic court sponsored by the International Volleyball Federation (FIVB) through its continental arm, NORCECA, to the government authorities for use in Gomea. The first is already located at the Girls High School where the national association trains and holds its competitions. Some of the Netball and Volleyball competitions of the WINLOTT WISG2017 would be contested at Gomea.
The hardcourts at Keartons have also been upgraded and would be used to host some of the Volleyball and Basketball competitions of the WINLOTT WISG2017.
WISG2017 comes not longer after the significant upgrade done to the Chili playing field where some of the Football matches would be played given that the Victoria Park would be unavailable, the Games coming so soon following the conclusion of this year’s Carnival celebrations.
While the teams participating in the annual WISG are engaged in competition it is an important legacy that great camaraderie is always evident.
Athletes and officials alike engage each other for the period together at the WISG and it is always the case that the atmosphere is, for the most part, a decidedly friendly one.
Teams work with each other to facilitate strong bonds of friendship bred out of respect for each other during competition as well as off the field of play.
By the end of the Games it is very difficult to even suggest that there is any animosity amongst participants.
Pioneers and successive participants of the Games over the years can attest to the fact that lasting friendships have been built. This is an important feature of sport and can be used to foster greater unity amongst the peoples of the sub region and serve as an example to the rest of the Caribbean.
Friendly rivalry
During any game, it is usual to find that the players of each team compete fiercely. This is what they were trained for. They came to compete to win, not just participate.
While in sport we place a premium on participation and it is a great honour to gains election to the respective representative teams, it is also the case that during the actual competitive games, each player gives of his/her very best.
The coaches are serious about getting the best out of their players and have been working on their strategies for some time in order to win.
Sometimes, on the field of play, things can get extremely challenging but the players know that at the end of the match, it is all about acknowledging the skill competencies displayed and that on the given day, the better performing team won.
Players appreciate a good display of skill regardless of the team for which the athlete plays.
Over the next nine days we will witness the friendly rivalry for which the WISG has become renowned.
Cultural experiences
St Vincent and the Grenadines, in hosting the WISG in 2013 took the bold decision of being the first host to take the competitions to different parts of the country. This raised many eyebrows but in the end, the delegations all enjoyed the fact tat for the very first time their members were able to experience something more about the host country.
In sport it is not enough to merely say that one participated in an event in another country. Athletes and their officials ought to experience something about the country in which the event is being hosted.
Many have found it important for athletes to learn about the history and geography of the host country, enjoy the nuances of its culture – the people, their tastes, ways of enjoyment, food and general lifestyle. This makes a great and lasting impact on all visitors.
The rest day is also used to allow the visitors an opportunity to visit the Central Business District and see some of what is on sale. They are also taken to some scenic areas of the host country.
Four years ago, at the closing ceremony, several of the leaders of visiting delegations expressed their satisfaction with what was for them a very different experience from what they had come to accept as the norm in the past.
Country showcase
The Local Organising Committee (LOC) led by Mrs Elizabeth Walker, Deputy Chief Education Officer, has been diligent in its preparations for this year’s even being hosted here.
While it is clear that we have just concluded the annual Carnival celebrations it is important that all our students and as many Vincentians as possible, come out in support of the national representative team.
Playing at home should normally be a boon for the home team. However, all too often we are so critical that rather than encourage we choose to destroy.
It is therefore important that we leave our criticisms for after the WINLOTT WISG2017.
The hosting of the WINLOTT WISG2017 allows us to showcase the sporting and cultural aspects of Vincentian society and we should all work diligently to place our best possible image before our visitors.
Our athletes, whatever we may think of their selection, should receive our fullest support at all events all of the time.