The case for Beach Games in SVG

Beach_Volley_(8143063908)For centuries the world has grown accustomed to the traditional sports being featured in local, regional and international competition. This appears to have served the international community well.
In the recent past there has been a grand shift towards what has become extreme sports, sporting events that engender adrenaline amongst both participants and sports enthusiasts alike. In this new dispensation beach sports have assumed immense proportions.
The growing popularity of beach sports is such that many analysts consider it one of the most important aspects of the sports industry in the world today.
Perhaps one of the most disappointing features of sport development in St Vincent and the Grenadines is the fact that we have failed to seize the opportunities afforded us by being a nation with so many beaches that are, for the most part, easily accessible.
St Vincent and the Grenadines has been holding regattas for several decades. Unfortunately we have consistently failed to harness its immense potential as a great sport tourism activity from which the country could reap significant income annually.
Compared to our Caribbean neighbours that also host annual regattas St Vincent and the Grenadines is far down the totem pole in respect of generating income from these events.
Year after year we wait until Easter is almost upon us to advertise the Bequia and other regattas hosted in our beautiful nation.
To begin with the Ministry of Sport is hardly ever involved in the annual regattas. This means that it is often not really considered a sporting event or a significant sporting event.
The Ministry of Tourism, which shares the Ministry of Sport in this country, is only marginally involved. This means that the regattas are mentioned with some photos in the annual promotional magazines and in some promotional videos. There is no real active involvement of the Ministry or tourism officials otherwise to suggest that the government of the day sees any real benefits coming to our shores and into the nation’s treasury, from the annual events.
It is all very unfortunate that we have not paid attention to the regattas as an important sporting activity.
We have paid little or no attention to the on-shore activities during regattas.
We seem to forget that when the sailors take off to race in the sea the majority of the people who came with them are left on the shore. Some do get into small vessels and ply out to sea to follow the races from a distinct vantage point but the majority are on land, driving to this or that pint to get a glimpse of developments.
The vast majority of people who trek to the regattas are simply moving around the island or committed to restaurants and bars. There are no planned sporting and other forms of entertainment for the visitors.
The point being made here is that apart from the sailing in competition there is no reason offered to sailors and their families to return to St Vincent and the Grenadines.
Interestingly, in some of the other Caribbean islands, the regattas are accompanied by a slew of other sporting activities that are specifically designed to appeal to those who are not out on the boats at sea. Importantly, even those who spend the day at sea are encouraged to engage in several activities on land once they are done with competition for the day. The intention is to keep them very active, day and night. While they are in the country and become so in tune with the nation’s culture that they are anxious to return.
Globally, regattas are an important income-generating enterprise and host countries use the opportunity to showcase themselves to the world in a manner that would not otherwise be done.
Despite repeated requests there has not been any real interest shown in the establishment of a national sailing association that can affiliate to the international federation and open up opportunities for our young sailors to seek to compete at the Olympic and other multisport Games as well as international and regional competitions in a significant way.
Beach Football
Beach football became popular several years ago. Former national footballers of South American teams were very proficient in this version of the game.
Over time the sport has been adopted in several other nations around the world and is now a permanent feature of Beach Games.
Here in St Vincent and the Grenadines, with so many beaches, have not even tried to get into the act of encouraging beach football. The national federation has also allowed this aspect of the game to escape our notice.
Additionally, because of a lack of understanding and appreciation for the development of beach football, many of our people expressed abhorrence any time they saw young people playing football anywhere near the beach they sought to use for relaxation. Rather than organise beach football properly, those who played it on our beaches to the annoyance of others simply retreated, desisted from the practice and it had essentially died a natural death.
Beach Volleyball
Beach Volleyball has been enjoying global recognition because of its mass appeal.
One is certain that people take delight in the fact that the ladies playing beach volleyball are in bikinis and work on their physiques. This explains much of its appeal to the global community.
Beach volleyball is really an entertainment package. There is music through the competition with many of the patrons joining the fun almost as though the event is a huge karaoke festival. One would have imagined that this would go down as well or even better than the Guinness Street Football competition.
The international volleyball federation (FIVB) has exploited the popularity of beach volleyball and introduced several innovative competitions that have attracted new practitioners to the sport. There is now a World Beach Volleyball Tour that is a series going from one country to another. There is a near-mass movement of professional players and their supporters who trek the globe in pursuit of this competition.
Here in St Vincent and the Grenadines, the students who attended the Kingstown Medical College had constructed their own beach volleyball court at their facility in Rathomill. Unfortunately, when they left the facility was left to the grasses and eventually replaced altogether.
Over the past five years attempts have been made to revitalise the sport of volleyball in this country. The promise of an indoor facility has not materialised. The same has happened with the promise of a beach volleyball facility at the Arnos Vale Sports Complex.
The popularity of beach volleyball has not escaped the local association. They have been trying to get youths into the sport at every turn using whatever areas they could fine.
Last year this country’s young beach volleyball players actually qualified to participate in the quadrennial Youth Olympics, which were held in Nanjing, China. This feat did nothing to engender greater interest on the part of national authorities to assist the local federation with an appropriate location to construct a beach volleyball facility yet we hear repeated boasts of love for and interest in sport in this country.
Other sports
Open water swimming is now a permanent feature of the aquatic competitions at the Olympic Games.
This country has several areas where open water swimming competitions can be held and with the upsurge in interest in swimming spurred by the SVG Amateur Swimming Association, we can expect that this aspect of the sport will soon enough receive the deserved attention. Some work has already started but we are still a long way from engaging the Vincentian beach-loving community to get involved.
Triathlons are another important area that can attract adherents if the effort is made here to establish the sport. It is also attractive to several professionals around the world who crave for the opportunity to travel to a new and exciting destination to compete.
Are we up for it?
This article seeks to tease our sports-loving people to review the options available if we systematically introduce beach games in this country.
It is not too difficult a task to generate interest once we get started. The issue is to get started.
The approach to making use of our beaches for sporting activities must involve people who are committed and willing to take a professional approach to events that can form an integral part of this nation’s development.
While it seems easy enough to speak glibly about sport tourism, the business of getting serious requires much more than empty phrase-mongering.
What we have seen thus far in this country is ole talk.
The time has come for us to get serious or be left behind by our neighbours.
Perhaps we are already too late.
The real question is, are we up to the challenges involved?