St Vincent and the Grenadines will play host to the annual Windward Islands Secondary Schools’ Games during the summer vacation. While a Committee has been established, the Vincentian public at large has thus far heard very little about the preparatory exercise. Of course we have become quite adept at ensuring we keep some of our events almost like state secrets yet expect public participation when the event actually begins.
The preparation for the annual event requires attention to a number of critical areas if we are to deliver something successful.
Given that the Inter Secondary Games involve several different sports it requires even more attention.
The hosting of any major sporting event requires particular attention to four critical areas: accommodation, food, transportation and competition.
When hosting regional teams for sporting competition the single most important component for success is accommodation.
Visitors must be guaranteed that they have places to sleep.
Accommodation must be of good quality. There must be limitations placed on the standard below which accommodation must not fall. The rooms must be sufficiently ventilated and there should be restrictions placed on the number of individuals to one bathroom (inclusive of toilet). The ratio of 4:1 is the norm at major events but up to 6:1 has been considered acceptable, even though with a stretch.
In the past it was common to place students, travelling across the region to engage their counterparts in competition, in schools. This may well still be acceptable but one must necessarily pay due attention to all pertinent health considerations. In some cases due attention is not paid to the ventilation of rooms and often, there are simply too many persons scattered on the floor on pieces of foam that do not measure up to the status of a bed.
The toilets in many schools are not well maintained and hence it may well be unsanitary to have them be the only ones available to the participating teams. There have been occasions, too, where the authorities hasten to do repairs to the toilets but fail to provide an adequate number in time for the particular competition. This can never be considered acceptable.
Most of our schools are not adequately served with showers. On one occasion when we hosted these Games the teams were accommodated at the CW Prescod Government School in Kingstown. Toilets were hastily erected outside with galvanise providing privacy to the occupants. In the haste, little consideration was given to drainage thereby allowing for the emergence of a different type of problem.
While we are dealing with secondary school students we must nonetheless ensure that there is some standard to the accommodation we are providing for them.
The second important area of hosting major sports events is the provision of food. Athletes are engaged in rigorous activities that place heavy demands on their bodies. They have to be adequately nourished and the younger they are the more their eating capacity. Food must therefore be in adequate supplies.
Importantly we must ensure that the food is not only well provided but that it is consistent with the requirements for athletes. This is one area where we tend to miss the mark. Athletes must be provided with food appropriate to their condition in terms of sport. This is often not taken into consideration in terms of what types of food are purchased and how the food is prepared for the athletes. One would therefore suggest that consideration be given to the inclusion of a nutritionist with some knowledge of sport on the sub committee that is given the responsibility for food.
It should also be remembered that these Games also involve officials who carry the responsibility for the technical management of the respective competitions that are being conducted. These officials also have to be adequately fed. There are no major problems in the provision of food at local school competitions, except perhaps lateness in the delivery. At the level of the regional competition, however, it is particularly important that due consideration is given to these additional requirements at the planning stage. Technical officials can and often do become quite irritable at competitions when those in authority ignore their needs in terms of the provision of food.
Athletes require adequate supplies of water and it may be useful for the planners to engage a major supplier of bottled water for the duration of the Windward Islands Games. For those competitions played long hours in the sun, the technical officials must also be adequately served with water and other refreshments to guarantee their optimal performance. Even where the competition is not played in the sun provision must be made for the technical officials to access water and refreshment.
The third major component of any serious competition is transportation. The athletes must be able to get to and from the training and competition venues in a manner that is comfortable and efficient.
Those responsible for transportation must therefore ensure that there is an appropriate schedule established that caters for the arrival and departure of participating teams and the movement of teams to and from training and competition venues during the conduct of the Games.
Team sizes must feature in the determination of the buses used in the process. Adequate provision must also be made for the equipment which athletes in the different sporting disciplines have to use during competition. This may require the provision of separate transport.
Team leaders are unforgiving where the host country fails to provide adequate and inefficient transportation when they are involved in keen competition even if friendly. Where a team arrives late for the start of a particular competition the leadership becomes quite angry and not without some measure of justification. Athletes need to arrive at competition venues early enough to engage in adequate warm-up exercises prior to the commencement of the competition.
Since the event is organised by the respective Ministries of Education in the Windward Islands it may well be that consideration be given to identifying appropriate transportation for visiting Ministers of Education and/or their Permanent Secretaries.
Competition is the fourth critical planning component in respect of our hosting of the annual Windward Islands Secondary Schools’ Games.
Competitions must be well structured so as to facilitate optimum performance by the athletes. Time must be allowed for recovery so that on each occasion the athlete can perform at his/her very best.
Competition venues must be properly prepared to facilitate excellence on the part of the competing athletes. The field of play must be impeccable in all aspects.
While one understands that the Games are held over only a few days and that some athletes are being asked to compete in several different sports it is particularly important that consideration be given to the scheduling of the different sports.