In the recent past we have had more exposure to sport over a concentrated period than hitherto in the history of this country.
For some it suggests that we can begin to take seriously the matter of sport tourism as a viable development option for St Vincent and the Grenadines. To others it may well have signified the extent to which we are extremely far removed from any sort of preparation for sport tourism.
Queen’s Baton Relay
On 6 March 2010 the Queen’s Baton arrived in St Vincent and the Grenadines to an impressive ceremony held at the VIP Room at the ET Joshua Airport.
The Queen’s Baton is the Commonwealth Games’ equivalent to the Olympic Torch, which heralds the final stages leading up to the commencement of the gala affair, the Games. In the case of the Commonwealth Games there is no flame. Instead the Baton contains a message from the Head of the Commonwealth, at this juncture, Queen Elizabeth II, which will be read at the Official Opening Ceremony of the Commonwealth Games.
With the Commonwealth Games scheduled fro Delhi, India, in October this year, the Queen’s Baton is a reflection of the diverse cultures of the society.
The advanced technology used in the Queen’s Baton since the 2006 Melbourne edition of the Commonwealth Games allows satellite transmission of activities in the community in which it is located at any given point.
When the Baton came to St Vincent and the Grenadines this time around the stage was well prepared. There was much publicity prior to the arrival of the Baton such that on its arrival Vincentians were well aware of what it is and what it stands for.
From the standpoint of the National Olympic Committee, hosts of the Queen’s Baton while here, it was important for the rest of the international sporting community to get an insight into St Vincent and the Grenadines. It was with this in mind that the NOC ensured that the Baton’s presence in this country during Heritage Month allowed for its passage through several historic sites around St Vincent and the Grenadines, including the remarkable climb to the La Soufriere volcano and the island of Mustique.
For the duration of the Baton’s stay here the eyes of the Commonwealth community were fixed on our beautiful islands. More than this, when the official opening ceremony gets going in Delhi, we will have the pleasure of seeing excerpts of the Queen’s baton visit to our country displayed in a collage along with clippings from the several other Commonwealth nations that played host to it.
The immense coverage of this country facilitated by the presence of the Queen’s Baton must be well worth what we spend on tourism as a nation, annually. This is something that the authorities here are yet to realise and to systematically exploit for the benefit of the country.
Immediately following the conclusion of the Queen’s Baton Relay leg here in St Vincent and the Grenadines this country was again embroiled in the historic developments in sport in the Caribbean, We played host to three One Day Internationals (ODI) in the West Indies versus Zimbabwe series.
Here again, sport took centre stage in St Vincent and the Grenadines.
Vincentians gave tremendous support to the three matches all of which were won by the West Indies. The final match w=saw a truly massive crowd, reminiscent of times past when we showed the region that we could deliver when given the opportunity.
One does not however get the impression that there was any deliberate attempt by anyone in St Vincent and the Grenadines to entice people from overseas to come to this country to witness the three ODIs.
A sport tourism focus would certainly have planned for this event from the very time that the series was announced. It would have meant having representatives from the cricket fraternity form part of our international promotional teams in advance of the series wooing visitors to this country for the event.
CFU Club Championships
The ODIs completed attention was then paid to this country’s hosting of three teams in the Caribbean Football Union’s (CFU) Club Championships. This also involved our own Avenues United Football Club.
Games were scheduled for 19, 21 and 23 March at the Victoria Park.
The St Vincent and the Grenadines Football fraternity surprised the wildest expectations of the authorities here, turning out oin their numbers to watch soccer at its best and to give yeoman support to the local team.
Indeed, the local vociferous support did not wane and despite having drawn the first game, lost the second by an embarrassing 0-6 margin, Avenues were able to achieve a resounding victory in the final encounter to move forward to the second round of the competition.
From the vantage point of sport tourism we did nothing and therefore gained little.
There was no promotion of the event beyond the shores of St Vincent and the Grenadines.
In fact the event seemed to have crept up on the local authorities such that there was a mad scramble to ensure that the activities came off. Late notification meant that the premier playing arena, Arnos Vale # 1, was off limits due to commitments to the Inter Secondary Schools
Essentially at the beginning Avenues United were allocated the responsibility to play host and this was a tremendous burden. Thankfully the Federation got involved and one understands that the spoils, however large or small would be divided between Avenues United and System 3, the latter having to play its first round in Puerto Rico over this weekend.
The point being made here is that there was never any consideration given to sport tourism in the entire exercise. Certainly neither the Football Federation nor Avenues United were in any position to engage themselves in working on the critical requirements for making the activity a sport tourism phenomenon redounding to the benefit of St Vincent and the Grenadines.
Inter Secondary Schools Athletics
On Thursday of this week Jamaica began its Boys’ and Girls’ Champs, easily the most dynamic and exciting national track and field competition in the region. It involves four days of keenly contested rivalry.
The Jamaican event is cause for hundreds of Jamaicans living in the Diaspora to return home to give support to their respective former schools for the entire period. Additionally, other track and field enthusiasts as well as coaching scouts seeking talented athletes for their respective Colleges in the US.
Over the years there has been a concerted effort made to ensure that the world knows of the dates for the Jamaica Champs though it is not really orchestrated as a sport tourism event.
Here in St Vincent and the Grenadines it is a challenge to even get the students of the respective schools to be in attendance with the intention of supporting their peers, far less to get former students to seek time off to support their respective alma maters. Consideration is really not made by anyone to seriously promote the event as the premier schools sporting spectacle that deserves greater attendance than we already have.
Effective 2011 we may well see these Championships as a four-day event that would engender even greater excitement amongst the sporting public in this country.
In the midst of the CFU competition the St Vincent and the Grenadines Netball Association, now headed by Godfrey ‘Fuzzy’ Harry, held the official opening of the DIGICEL National Championships at Arnos Vale on Sunday last.
Attendance was relatively good given what has been happening in the recent past.
This year’s competition has some 37 teams in attendance.
It is possible that from a sport tourism perspective a leading club from one of the neighbouring islands could easily have been featured in an encounter with a leading local club at the official opening. The visitors could have been encouraged to bring along supporters.
Sport tourism is one of the fastest growing industries in the world today. Thus far we have made little effort at drumming up support for initiatives to be taken to realise a viable and well staffed sport tourism department in the government.
Time is really not on our side as we continue to miss important opportunities.