On Monday 30 May 2011 the St Vincent and the Grenadines National Olympic Committee (NOC) convened a press conference at Olympic House for the expressed purpose of launching its Road to London 2012.
The occasion marked the beginning of a wide range of activities planned by the NOC through to the commencement of the Games in London.
President of the NOC, Trevor Bailey, in speaking on the occasion of the launching reminded the media of this country’s participation of previous Olympic Games beginning with Seoul, South Korea 1988.
While we have won one gold at the World University Games, two gold medals at the Commonwealth Games, two bronze medals at the Pan American Games and one bronze at the Central American and Caribbean Games, this country has not won medals at any edition of the Games in which it has participated but it has attained some measure of success.
Eswort Coombs’ performance at the Centennial Olympics in Atlanta in 1996 where he secured a semi final berth remains the most outstanding achievement for us at the Olympics. At the time Coombs was a student on an athletic scholarship at Essex Community College, New Jersey, USA under the watchful eyes of coach Michael Smart.
London 2012 offers the latest opportunity for us to make the podium at the Olympics and the NOC is hoping to use available resources to facilitate adequate preparation of our athletes and at the same time, seizing the opportunity to engender greater interest in sport and the positive values attendant thereto among the Vincentian populace.
The NOC’s leadership unveiled for the first time in St Vincent and the Grenadines, the mascots of the London 2012 Olympics – Wenlock and Mandeville.
Much Wenlock is a small town in Shropshire, England. The history of the reintroduction of the Olympic Games in the 19th century seems to have located a place for the Much Wenlock Games organised by William Penny Brookes, a local doctor driven by his own interest in the legacy of the Greeks in sport and a strong advocate of the role of physical education in shaping the individual. Brookes’ intention with the Games was to ‘promote the moral, physical and intellectual improvement of the inhabitants of the town and neighbourhood of Wenlock’
One of the founding fathers of the modern Olympics, Pierre de Coubertin, accepted an invitation from Brookes to attend the Much Wenlock Games in 1890.
Mandeville is the other mascots name because of the place of Stoke Mandeville in the establishment of the Paralympic Games, which is usually hosted by the same city that hosts the summer Olympics one month later.
Stoke Mandeville is a town in Buckinghamshire where Ludwig Guttmann, a neurosurgeon, is credited with having organized the Stoke Mandeville Games the first edition of which started on the same day as the Opening Ceremony of the London Olympics in 1948.
Guttmann’s initiative came after he realised that sport was a means to getting his patients to exercise and aid in their rehabilitation physically and emotionally.
The Stoke Mandeville Games grew and became an international event. The edition of the Games held in Rome, 1960, following the Olympic Games in the came city, featured 400 disabled athletes from 23 countries. Many see these Games of 1960 as the first edition of the Paralympic Games.
Thanks to funding provided by the Pan American Sports Organisation’s Olympic Solidarity initiative, the NOC has been able to facilitate participation by its affiliates in the qualification competitions for the Pan American Games and would seek to do likewise for the 2012 Olympics. This is the first time that this has been rendered possible.
Participation in the Pan American Games itself constitutes an excellent opportunity for those athletes intending to make the national team to the Olympics in London.
The NOC continues to benefit from Olympic Solidarity scholarships for athletes with the award of two for the period 2010 through to the Games next year. Kineke Alexander and Courtney Williams have been in receipt of this support effective September 2010.
The London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games (LOCOG) has offered every NOC a training grant that must be expended in one of the many cities on offer. The training is to be done before the Olympics and can be accessed as early as this year. There is no cash exchange with the NOC but to the host city involved to facilitate the training.
Local athletes have been afforded the opportunity to benefit from greater participation in Meets across the region in an attempt to qualify for the Pan American Games and the Olympics. Athletes have already been to Tobago, and twice to Martinique. They are due to participate in the National Championships in St Kitts/Nevis and Trinidad and Tobago. The better athletes would then journey to the Central American and Caribbean (CAC) Senior Championships in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico.
Over seas-based athletes are being brought to the St Kitts/Nevis and Trinidad and Tobago Nationals and the CAC Senior Championships. This would determine who, local of overseas would make it to the World Championships in Athletics scheduled for Daegu, South Korea in August-September this year.
Olympic Values Education
Olympic Values education is an important aspect of the global Olympic movement.
From inception of the modern Olympics the founding fathers considered sport an important vehicle for the promotion of positive values in a bid to create a better world where there is peaceful coexistence of people and greater social harmony.
Over the next several months the NOC, through its education arm, the National Olympic Academy (NOA), would continue to utilise a variety of means to reach the nation’s children and youth in particular in respect of the positive impact of physical education and sport on the development of the whole person. Parents are also being targeted relative to encouraging their children to participate in PE and sport.
The NOC’s website, www.svgnoc.org, would be more focused on the messages being sent to our athletes, children and youths especially via new media – Facebook and the like.
Children would be encourage to know the rules of the various sports being practised across the country and the importance of playing by the rules – playing fair – at all times. They would be encouraged to appreciate the discipline that is required of them to be involved in PE and sport.
Excellence must become an important concept for all our children and that comes with a blend of sport with academic work.
Teachers would be informed of ways in which Olympic values can be taught in all of their respective subject areas. It is not difficult.
There would be an array of quizzes in relation to Olympic values.
The NOA would seek to have Junior Olympians branches in the schools of this country where students can come together to discuss their own growth in PE and Sport and how their involvement can make them more focused on excelling at all that they do; how they can become better persons and students.
The NOA would also have radio and television programmes promoting Olympic values and sport in St Vincent and the Grenadines. The programmes would be far more interesting and exciting.
Last year witnessed the first Youth Olympics. Young athletes have experienced the Olympic movement first-hand since the Games were a mix of education and sport. It was not about winning but about experiencing the fundamental values of the movement.
The NOC would work with its affiliates to identify individual sportspersons to serve as in-country ambassadors across St Vincent and the Grenadines.
Olympians here at home would be brought on board to be of service as ambassadors to young children and students around the country.
Our youths need good examples and perhaps by having young athletes serve as ambassadors they themselves would see the benefit of lifting their own standards of behaviour.
The NOC currently has several programmes in train. During the period of the Road to London 2012 it is anticipated that these would be more deliberately directed at getting our people focused on what sport can do in their respective communities and institutions.
The NOC intends to organise a National Schools Competition in tandem with the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Health, Wellness and the Environment to facilitate regular environmental clean up. Students must understand that their school is important to their wellbeing and that the must take care of it.
Emphasis would also be placed on a nationwide community sports facility clean up under the theme, Own Your Facility. The idea here is that in the absence of any structured Area Sports Committees with clear mandates it is important for the people of every community to see the sports facility in their respective areas as their own. These facilities should be cared for at all times.
Tree planting at playing fields and schools and environmental hikes would also form part of the programme.
There will be much attention paid to Sport for All during the period of the programme including sporting activities for persons with disabilities. People of all ages, ethnic groups, religions and social statuses would be brought into the programming.
The NOC would strive to consolidate the existing Women in Sport programmes in North Windward and North Leeward and expand to other parts of St Vincent and the Grenadines. The National Women’s Sports Day would assume greater significance during the Road to London 2012 programming. Girls would be encouraged to participate in sport in a manner that is sustainable rather than quit as soon as they attain the age of 17.
The Road to London 2012 programme organised by the NOC offers immense opportunities for development in St Vincent and the Grenadine sin the twin disciplines of PE and sport. This is a time for us to make sense of the value of physical activity in the fight against a number of diseases that negatively impact our people.
We should all be enthused about getting involved and facilitating our movement as a nation towards significantly improved sporting achievements.