Let the Games begin!

The Windward Islands Schools Games 2013 (WISG2013) are finally here.
On Wednesday 24th July the St Lucian team to the Games arrived by boat in St Vincent and the Grenadines and today Grenada and Dominica will arrive. The Vincentian team will today join their Windward Islands counterparts at the Games Village, the West St George Secondary School.
WISG2013 officially begins on Saturday 27th July with an Opening Ceremony at the Games Village. All of the participants would be introduced and there would be brief addresses.
Competition begins in earnest immediately following the conclusion of the Opening Ceremony.
At the Closing Ceremony, scheduled for Saturday 3rd August, awards would be presented to the outstanding athletes and the winning teams in the various competitions. Only the athletics would witness individual awards being presented at competition.
The Games offer Vincentians an excellent opportunity to be part of an event with a very colourful and exciting history.
In an article penned some years ago, prolific writer, Kenneth John, reminded Vincentians of the early days of sporting competitions between the students of the secondary schools of the Windward Islands.
The concept of the Games was always to facilitate opportunities to use sport as a vehicle for bringing the peoples of the sub region together. In this case it is bringing students together.
Sport between the islands build friendships as the students mix and mingle, exchanging values inherent in their respective cultures and building bridges across the maritime divide that so often threatens to keep us apart.
Sport has many attributes, which, if appropriately harnessed, could redound unto the benefit of society. It is these noble attributes that the WISG is intended to promote amongst not just the participants but all who take the time to witness the competitions, share in the enthusiasm of those on the field of play and the organisers and so join with them in celebrating our immense potential as a people.
While we compete the intention is never to disrespect or denigrate.
To the extent that those currently involved in the annual sporting spectacle give of their best whilst engaging in camaraderie they can strengthen the bonds of friendship and ultimately make their contribution to the unification of our peoples – a long held dream of so many who have gone before us.
The preparation
For the hosting of this year’s edition of the Windward Islands Schools Games the planning began fairly early with the establishment of a Local Organising Committee (LOC) headed by the Deputy Chief Education Officer, Beverly Neptune.
Several sub committees were formed to effect the planning process and facilitate the preparation of an appropriate work plan for the realisation of the big event.
Planning is never an easy undertaking. In the case of the WISG2013 the process has proven all the more challenging given the state of the economics of the Windward Islands more generally and St Vincent and the Grenadines, the host nation, in particular.
The overall budget for the Games is in excess of $400,000 and that takes into consideration efforts at frugality in virtually all areas.
The government of St Vincent and the Grenadines is the single largest contributor to meeting the expenses related to hosting the Games of 2013, with more than three quarters of what is required.
Canadian Bank Note (CBN), hardware and software provider to the lotteries in the Windward Islands, also made a significant contribution while WINLOTT, the sub regional organisation composed of the lotteries of the different islands, added to the overall income stream to assist with the realisation of the Games.
LIME has come forward as the communications provider for WISG2013 while several local business houses have committed to providing some measure of support to the various aspects of the Games. Value In Kind (VIK) contributions have been important to the work of the LOC.
When the planning started for WISG2013 the current dates, 26th July – 4th August – were chosen as being the most convenient.
A few weeks into the planning the LOC was informed that the dates were bad since St Vincent and the Grenadines would be host to some matches involving the West Indies cricket team and Pakistan. This immediately led to a reconsideration of the original dates with a view to avoiding any potential clash with international cricket.
A few weeks later the LOC was again reliably informed that St Vincent and the Grenadines would not be hosting any matches in the series against Pakistan so the original dates could be kept.
Planning for the Games therefore went ahead with the original dates and schedules of competition in the five sports were diligently prepared.
At the time of hosting the representatives of the governments of Dominica, Grenada and St Lucia, 21st – 22nd May 2013, there was no new information in respect of international cricket being played in St Vincent and the Grenadines at any time during the dates allocated to the WISG2013.
The four country delegations ended the meeting and agreed the report on the two days of discussions with the understanding that the dates were fine.
It was more than one month later that the LOC was informed that the international cricket matches were on again and on the first two days of the Games. Immediately contact was made with the Windward Islands informing them of the situation.
In each case the response was the same. Plans had already been put in place for the teams to travel to St Vincent and it was not possible to make alternative arrangements. Added to this was the fact that St Lucia’s arrangement involved contracting a boat to bring its 70-member contingent. More complicated was the fact that Grenada’s Carnival is scheduled for the week following the conclusion of the Games with the original dates and any attempt at pushing the Games to a later date would have serious implications for team travel to St Vincent and the Grenadines.
After agonising about the situation the LOC opted to retain the original dates. There was really little choice.
The WISG of 2013
WISG2013 would witness for the very first time, since the Games were revived, that competitions would be taken to different parts of the host country.
In Grenada in 2012 the Games were not held in the capital city, St Georges. Instead, for the first time, it was taken to the town of Grenville.
St Vincent and the Grenadines is therefore breaking new ground in taking the WISG2013 to the masses across St Vincent. Sheer cost and time implications prevented the LOC from locating any competitions in the Grenadines although several configurations to include this aspect were prepared and discussed.
As it now stands, Athletics would take place at the Arnos Vales Sports Complex on Monday 29th July beginning at 1.00pm. This is an all-finals affair and should prove very attracting to patrons who are lovers of the sport. Grenada has dominated this aspect of the Games for some time but it is hoped that this year there could be serious challenges. Dominica, Grenada and St Lucia have Carifta medallists on their teams and would be hoping that this significantly impacts the outcome of this particular aspect of WISG2013.
Basketball would be played at two venues – the headquarters of the national federation at New Montrose and the heavily supported Biabou hard court.
Football would be held at the Victoria Park at night and at the newly completed Park Hill playing field.
Netball would be played at three venues – the Netball headquarters at New Montrose, Questelles and Keartons.
Volleyball would be played at the Girls’ High School in Kingstown and at Questelles.
The intention is to take the competition to areas where the facilities are good and would not compromise the talent of the participating athletes while at the same time guaranteeing crowd participation.
Nothing deflates an athlete as much as competing before empty stands.
The promotion of the events should have involved community-based organisations in addition to the schools enough to have people in attendance at the various competitions.
While it would have been the preferred option to have most of the competitions on afternoons going into evenings the reality is that there are five sports involved in the competition spread over seven days of competition with a compulsory rest day on 31st July. The sheer number of competitions necessitates the use of morning sessions, which may not necessarily be convenient for some potential patrons.
It is nonetheless hoped that sufficient enthusiasm for WISG2013 has been generated to facilitate highly supportive crowds at the majority of the competitions.
Vincentians love sports and WISG2013 promises to showcase the best talents in the sub region in the five sports, an indication of the future of sport for these small islands.
WISG2013 is here.
As always the athletes would compete, delivering the best they can to aid in realising the sporting spectacle.
There will be winners. There can be no losers.
The very intent of the WISG is to facilitate participation. To participate is to win, in a very real sense.
Vincentians must give their support to the future of our region, our young sporting talent.
Let us show them that we care and that we respect them for stepping forward and representing our sub region.