The national stadium project must not be like the AIA
Politicians across the world often seem possessive of a fetish to construct monuments to themselves even as they publicly declare their own humility and lack of interest in being glorified.
Ole people, in their wisdom, proclaim that he who is humble never has cause to publicly so declare for this inevitably gives the lie to possession of any form of humility whatsoever. Unfortunately, our politicians do not see old people as possessing any wisdom, especially where they did not have the good fortune of earning an academic degree.
Caribbean politicians have revealed themselves to be extremely egoistic, often believing themselves to be approximating infallibility in all things, and strive more often than not to write themselves into their own accounts of their country’s history under their administration.
In this Caribbean we call home, history recounts the numerous leaders who have attempted to engage in megalomaniacal behaviour if only to leave legacies to themselves, belligerently assuming them to be legacies to the nation.
The commitments made to so-called sport infrastructure in the name of hosting the Cricket World Cup 2007 (CWC2007) tells an ominous tale of the type of megalomaniacal behaviour of our Caribbean leaders, none of whom can be credited with having taken the time to engage appropriately qualified personnel to advise them in their expenditures and legal shenanigans. The end result is today a number of overly large cricket facilities better used for entertainment in order to get filled on a consistent basis and an embarrassing reminder of how one after the other, they too turn at pushing through their respective Parliaments the ill-conceived ‘Sunset Legislation’, a colossal contradiction to the ever-emerging Caribbean culture.
The end result is today a number of overly large cricket facilities better used for entertainment in order to get filled on a consistent basis and an embarrassing reminder of how one after the other, they too turn at pushing through their respective Parliaments the ill-conceived ‘Sunset Legislation’, a colossal contradiction to the ever-emerging Caribbean culture
Here in St Vincent and the Grenadines the situation is no different.
It is bad enough that we have never really been given a detailed analysis of the suggested expenditure of some $50+m ECD on cricket arenas in the State. Today, ten years later, the Stubbs, Sion Hill and Arnos Vale #2 cricket facilities are but a shadow of themselves, at least when compared to the much-vaunted proposals fed to the Vincentian populace in anticipation of the CWC2007.
Our once treasured Arnos Vale#1is today struggling to gain a ranking in the Caribbean amongst playing surfaces given due consideration by the International Cricket Council (ICC). Somehow, we are afraid to discuss in public why this is indeed the case, especially after having spent millions in preparing it for nought but some ‘goat cook’ matches in 2007. It remains very much a case where ‘the dance could not pay for the lights’, as old people say.
One of the most embarrassing features of our once-treasured Arnos Vale #1, is that ten years after the refurbishing undertaken there, the headquarters of the National Sports Council is riddled with cracks and when it rains buckets have to be strategically located in order to avoid internal flooding.
Additionally, the toilets downstairs the double-decker stands to the south eastern end of the facility ceased to function since the conclusion of the aforementioned ‘goat cook’ matches in 2007. These toilets are yet to be repaired. Small wonder therefore that the ICC cannot look favourably on this facility as befitting the likes of international cricket matches of the order seen elsewhere in the world and even in the Caribbean where pride is taken in ensuring that the existing facilities on offer meet all requisite international sporting and public health standards.
We wait until patrons can see the sky through the galvanised roofing and the rust is evident on the steel infrastructure before we panic into begging for some funding and other forms of assistance to address the problems.
Had the same sum, $50+m ECD, been expended on a national stadium, we would have been infinitesimally better off in terms of sport development and sport tourism.
But here again we are reminded that the old people say. ‘where there is no vision a people perish’.
The national stadium
Given the foregoing reality regarding the sports infrastructure works undertaken for CWC2007 and their conditions today, one may well be tempted to conclude that had we constructed a national stadium early in the years of the new political administration in 2001, the state of the sport facility would probably have fallen into the sad state of disrepair that is evident in the existing ones today. The evidence stares un in the face every day.
In contrast, the swimming facilities developed by the SVG Amateur Swimming Association at Shrewsbury House, has been systematically expanded and today, compares favourably with any in the Eastern and even wider Caribbean. This reality can largely be explained by the fact that the national governing body for the sport has been able to get genuine involvement of parents and sponsors. The government has not been actively involved in helping this association and this may well have proven to be something of a ‘blessing in disguise’, as the old people would say.
What then should be our approach to the national stadium project?
For the Vincentian people
The very first step must inevitably be a commitment that the national stadium is indeed such a project. It must not be a political party project as happened with the Argyle International Airport.
The public declaration must be that the national stadium is for all of St Vincent and the Grenadines. It is a genuinely national undertaking in which we all participate and we are all shareholders in every sense of the word.
This approach means that we are all committed to the realisation of the national stadium and its sustainability.
The vast majority of Vincentian sportspeople are supportive of the idea of a national sport stadium and so their commitment to its realisation and support can be counted on with great confidence.
Collaboration of National Sports Associations
Who uses a national stadium?
Here in St Vincent and the Grenadines, we can certainly say that track and field athletics, football and rugby, would be the primary users of a national stadium.
Of course, it would be expected that unlike the puny excuse for a gym that currently exists at Arnos Vale, the aforementioned sports would require a very expansive gymnasium that is large enough to accommodate members of the public that are prepared to pay for use of the equipment and facilities of such an establishment.
Site selection and facilities
Perhaps the single most important feature of constructing a national stadium relates to its users. They must reflect on their respective needs and agree the best location for the facility.
Herein immediately lies a problem.
The government of the day always believes that the location of such an important facility must be where they enjoy greatest political currency. On the other hand, the sport interests of the associations relate to such things as population concentration and relatively cheap accessibility for the primary users, the athletes. The conflict is obvious.
Athletics, football and rugby require both a high quality competition arena and adequate training facilities.
For the competition arena, the three sports require a high quality surface that is consistently flat throughout and satisfies the detailed specifications of the respective international federations.
Athletics however also requires the inclusion of two Ds, one on each end of the competition arena, that allows for the throwing events – Shot, Discus and Javelin – as well as the High Jump and Pole Vault. Parallel to the straights of the track and preferably outside it, the facilities for the horizontal jumps – Long and Triple – are located.
Accessibility must be easy for everyone with consideration given to those persons who have special needs, whether as competitors or patrons something we do not always consider in St Vincent and the Grenadines.
Consideration must be given to health and safety as well as security requirements of all users of the facility, inclusive of patrons.
There must be adequately sized and equipped rooms must be available for athletes, sport technical officials, medical, security, anti-doping, rest and recovery.
Equipment and their storage
Each of the aforementioned sports using the national stadium requires its own set of equipment. Of course this assumes that coaches would not either themselves or their athletes, engage in break-ins to steal the equipment of the respective national associations as so often shamelessly happens currently in the case of athletics in particular.
While some equipment can be shared by all three associations and their athletes, there are some that are sport-specific and would therefore need to be stored separately.
Storage space that is secure and arrangements made for the applications for use of and return of equipment must be in place for each of the sports.
The equipment for the gym can be procured in a joint partnership between the three sporting organisations. This could lead to the single largest, best equipped sports gym in St Vincent and the Grenadines. Tis can therefore serve as a source of income for the payment of staff as well as the maintenance of the establishment over time. It would also allow for the replenishment of ageing equipment.
A national stadium requires highly qualified and competent staff.
Sport is a costly and revenue-generating industry and must increasingly be managed as a business characterised by professionalism. Here again there must be an objective human resources department that is independent of party politics and any other form of prejudice
The aforementioned sports associations can work in collaboration to access funding for a national stadium, in tandem with the St Vincent and the Grenadines Olympic Committee. Once the mand is made available, these associations can bring to realisation the requisite national stadium.
Of course, the government would do well to make the land available and be a full partner with the aforementioned associations. This way there is no place for partisan politics.
Indeed, if we work together in the manner discussed here, we are sure to find that all of St Vincent and the Grenadines, all Vincentians at home and abroad, would feel confident that the national stadium is genuinely theirs and for all generations as yet unborn.
The choice is ours.