The CWC2007 travesty and implications
Much has been said in the recent past about the government’s commitment to the development of sport in St Vincent and the Grenadines. The comments are at best amusing and at worst ludicrous.
The average Vincentian must be at a loss to hear the current administration boast of its commitment to sport and its development especially in light of any sort of cursory analysis of what has transpired in the past nine and one half years.
Since becoming the Minister of State in the Ministry responsible for Sport, Ces Mc Kie has unfortunately adopted a rather twisted version of Obama’s ‘Yes We Can’ in the form of ‘With Sport We Can’.
One wonders how it is that Vincentian sportspeople who have languished in the wilderness for the past nine and one half years should now be expected to take on board Mc Kie’s rather later promise that his government will change its modus simply because he says so.
Mr Mc Kie is not in control of the purse strings of the current administration and unfortunately for him and all of St Vincent and the Grenadine she who controls these does not seem to have the best interest of the sportspeople of this country at heart.
Cricket World Cup 2007
St Vincent and the Grenadines submitted a bid to host what this Columnist considers to this day, ‘Goat Cook’ cricket matches. These matches were intended as warm up for four of the teams participating in the Cricket World Cup of 2007. One is not at all certain as to why this country submitted a bid for ‘goat cook’ since as far as our understanding goes the real prize would have been to win the right to host actual competition matches. The latter would have involved followership that the former would not have had.
We therefore have to begin with an appreciation of the fact that we committed a grave error in ever agreeing to bid for the ‘goat cook’ matches, especially after it was learnt that several other countries had refused them and this included countries with stronger economies than ours.
The decision to allocate the ‘goat cook’ matches to St Vincent and the Grenadine sled to what this columnist considers the most wasteful expenditure on sport this country has ever experienced.
The wasteful expenses began with the Local Organising Committee. The public at large and the Vincentian sportspeople would relish an opportunity to have the detailed expenditures on the Local Organising Committee presented to the public. It would make for some embarrassment should the average Vincentian glean an understanding of just how much of the monies allocated to the preparation for and hosting of the ‘goat cook’ matches went into the payment of staff of the Local Organising Committee versus what was allocated to the development of sport infrastructure.
The payment to staff may well have bordered on the obscene and one wonders to what extent anyone can claim that we got our money’s worth.
The infrastructure was another significant waste.
The fields that were refurbished were Arnos Vale # 1, Arnos Vale # 2, Stubbs and Sion Hill. In each case the entire ground was dug up and redone. Each field received a heavy sand base and some imported material to go along with the planting of the seeds. The actual work on the grounds was extensive and expensive. The results were significantly different for some of the fields.
Arnos Vale # 1 emerged the best of a bad lot. In some areas the grass never took root as planned. The area closest to the new double-decker stand remained something of a dust bowl for a very long time.
It has taken several months of intensive and extensive work by Operations Manager, Lauren Baptiste, employed after the CWC2007, to get Arnos Vale # 1 to the level that now exists. The commendation received from all and sundry for the current
Arnos Vale # 1 has nothing to do with the work on the grounds undertaken for CWC2007.
Indeed Baptiste had to do his own soil tests in order to redress the problems encountered when he was first employed in the aftermath of CWC2007.
Sion Hill was always a relatively good ground. Someone in the LOC seemed to think that the football field should be reconfigured and changed the direction from North-South to East-West, to ensure that at any given time one of the goalkeepers in any football game would have the benefit of the sun in his/her eyes.
The field was left with a mound. Happily the Operations Manager, given his understanding of fields, has found better use for the earth used to create the unnecessary heap.
Arnos Vale # 2 was a disaster. After months of preparation of this facility as has been done on the other fields Arnos Vale # 2 was then used for venue overlay. To this day no one could explain why was it ever thought necessary to establish venue overlay for ‘goat cook’ matches.
The overlay placed on Arnos Vale # 2 was wasteful and unnecessary. The net result was the undoing of all the expensive work that had already been done on the ground. Following the completion of the CWC2007 Arnos Vale # 2 was in as bad a shape as it was prior to the preparations for the ‘goat cook’ matches. Here again it took yeoman effort on the part of the Operations Manager to get this facility into the remarkable shape that now exists.
Happily the LOC had also created a useless mound on Arnos Vale # 2 which the Operations Manager utilised to rehabilitate the ground.
The Stubbs Playing Field was dubbed ‘The Beach’ following the completion of the preparatory work for the CRC2007. It was the one facility that never seemed ‘to make it’. Just about everyone that saw the facility as well below the expected standard.
The LOC has as yet been unable to respond to the charges that it changed the colours of the seating in so far as they were originally intended to be the colour of the national flag and suddenly red replaced the gold in the middle.
The athletics fraternity was assured that an appropriate arrangement would have been made for a 400m track. However the authorities for athletics indicated that the present configuration of Arnos Vale prohibits the establishment of a conventional 400m track. What is possible would be a barrel hoop with no straights. At the conclusion of the CWC2007 athletics remained with its tradition 350m track heavily underlain by sand that assured athletes of tough going and slow times. This fact is reflected in the performances of competitions held at the facility ever since.
When told about the slowness of the surface and its impact on athletes one individual claimed that the international cricketers used the surface and there were no complaints of loss of speed.
Arrangements are only now being made to work with the Operations Manager to facilitate the refurbishing of the 300m circuit to facilitate a hardier surface for the athletes.
The LOC appeared caught up in the malaise that was region-wide while all that this country was doing was organising some ‘goat cook’ matches. The government too got carried away. It rushed headlong to enact the legislation and together with the LOC and the CWC2007 organisers delivered a product that may well have been a grave disservice to the lovers and supporters of the sport of cricket here in St Vincent and the Grenadines.
That the life of the LOC was extended to allow them to remain in existence for more than one year after the CWC2007 had concluded remains an amazing travesty. Our LOC remained in place longer than any other such organisation associated with the CWC2007 in the entire Caribbean and with no real justification. Not even the Minister of Finance could offer any reasonable and fulsome explanation for this.
Generally it has been claimed that some $50m were expended on the preparations for and organisation of the ‘goat cook’ matches in 2007. The average Vincentian lover of sport remains at a loss to determine where the bulk of the monies went and it may be appropriate to request the detailed breakdown of the expenses.
This Columnist has had to repeatedly return to the sordid matter of the national stadium.
The $50m plus that has been spent on the CWC2007 could easily have provided this country with its national stadium for track and field athletics and football.
Given that the national stadium was an elections promise of the current administration, and the fact that ground had been cleared and an official ceremony held at Diamond to usher the start of the project in 2001, one would have expected that this would have been a priority.
Football is easily the nation’s most popular sport and everyone involved in the sport at every level remains concerned about the absence of a home for the sport and somewhere where it can be relatively certain it can access for major regional and international competitions during any given year.
Football and athletics live happily around the world in national stadia and the clashes are minimal in small countries since both organisations work well together in the interest of their respective adherents.
Those responsible for the national stadium were left very much aghast as they watched the expenses on the CWC2007. They could not believe that a project that was never on the government’s agenda in 2001 could have so easily derailed the national stadium planning process.
It is not possible for athletes in St Vincent and the Grenadines to adequately compete against their regional and international counterparts while training at home in any of the sprint and middle distance events and this is also the case for the field events that require synthetic surfaces – the Javelin, High, Long and Triple Jumps.
The newly appointed Junior Minister of Sport must understand that there is much we can do with sport but it is extremely difficult to expect this to take place under the current administration.
There is an urgent need to revisit the CWC2007 and what has taken place in respect of the expenditures.
There is need for full disclosure in respect of the expenses so that our sportspeople can have a good grasp of how the government does business.
Our sportspeople must get more involved in the decision-making process ensuring that their voices are heard.
The eagerness to appear to be interested in the cause of Vincentian sportspeople is late and seems far too much an elections gimmick than a genuine commitment to the advancement of our people through sport, an avenue that contributes so much to individual and national well being.