Sunday 7 November 2010 will long be remembered as an historic day for sport in St Vincent and the Grenadines. It was the day on which the Olympic sports family of this country came together to celebrate sport.
The packed programme of fun-filled sporting activities brought together hundreds of Vincentians in what was called, The Festival of Games, a production of the Sports for All Commission of the National Olympic Committee (NOC).
The Sports for All Commission first introduced its concept of a Festival of Games as far back as April 2010 and called on affiliates of the NOC to be fully involved.
The Festival of Games was originally scheduled for Sunday 31 November 2010 but was postponed on the evening of Thursday 28 November as a result of the warnings of the then pending tropical storm, Tomas, as disseminated by the National Hurricane Centre in the USA.
The Sport for All Commission’s mission is to encourage participation of all sectors of Vincentian society in the practice of sport as an effective means of inculcating and continuing healthy lifestyle practices.
Essentially the long term focus is to generate enthusiasm amongst Vincentians, regardless of station in life for a way of life that is healthy in all aspects.
While there has been much talk of a so-called wellness revolution there is little evidence that this has been taken seriously by the very authorities that have promulgated it. Instead it appears that it is ‘every man to himself’ in respect of health and wellness in St Vincent and the Grenadines. Sport for All seeks to change all of that. In this regard therefore the Sport for All Commission’s mandate is integral to the commitment of the National Olympic Committee to facilitating the emergence of a national sports culture in St Vincent and the Grenadines.
The objectives of the Sport for All Commission include but are not limited to the following:
To contribute to the development of positive values amongst all sectors of the Vincentian population through the practice of sport
To promote fair play in all sporting activities
To engender camaraderie, cooperation and solidarity amongst Vincentians in pursuit of constructing a peaceful, harmonious society.
To organise sporting activities for Vincentians of all ages, gender, religion, class, ethnic group and physical and mental states.
It is in pursuit of these objectives therefore that Sunday’s Festival of Games was developed.
The primary purpose of Sunday’s activity therefore was to bring together a wide range of the Vincentian citizenry in various sporting disciplines to encourage and support the efforts and developments in disseminating the health and social benefits to be gained by all members of society through regular physical activity.
In the aftermath of the damage wrought by hurricane Tomas the Sport for All Commission decided to promote the Festival of Games as an opportunity offered to the nation to ‘bounce back’ from the trauma by involvement in a day of sporting excitement in an atmosphere of solidarity.
The planning process involved bringing together the affiliates of the NOC to explain the concept of the Festival of Games and have their inputs in respect of precisely how it should be structured and administered.
Plans included a variety of sporting activities organised and administered by the respective affiliates with supervision provided by the Sport for All Commission of the NOC.
There were some affiliates that responded very early giving their commitment to being a part of the activity. The early respondents were Athletics, Basketball, Boxing, Cycling, Rugby, Table Tennis, Tennis and Volleyball. The Commission also intended to involve board games. There were plans to organise a series of mini seminars on a range of topics during the course of the day.
All affiliates were then requested to prepare a detailed plan of their respective activities and an accompanying budget. The documentation was then forwarded to Olympic Solidarity, the development arm of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) for approval and funding. Essentially the plan was to have all participants facilitated for the respective activities inclusive of appropriate refreshments.
The plans and budget had to be trimmed following dialogue with Olympic Solidarity.
Throughout the preparatory exercise the NOC sought to encourage the rest of its affiliates to become involved. Football, Taekwondo and Netball later came on board.
The day’s activities were scheduled for a 9:30am start.
There was no shortage of participants. The varying sporting organisations delivered, for the most part, as earlier promised and the participants thoroughly enjoyed themselves, as also did the leadership of the respective governing bodies.
Easily the Football competition attracted the most participants as well as enthusiastic supporters. This came as no surprise given that this is the nation’s most popular sport. Eager participants took to the field from the very start of the day’s proceedings and were the last to complete their activities in the late afternoon. There was a break for lunch that was cut short by the enthusiasm of the participants themselves.
The keenness of the Football component of the Festival of Games is an indication of the continued popularity of the sport as well as acknowledgement of the development pathway of the national Federation.
The Athletics fraternity conducted two major activities. The first was the Kids in Athletics (KIA) programme. Athletes came from around the country to participate, including the defending champions of the National Kids in Athletics competition, the Biabou Methodist Primary School with the Physical Education teacher, Manson Shortte.
The KIA was conducted on Arnos Vale # 1, much to the delight of the participants. They were allowed to share the field with Rugby.
The second Athletics activity was the conduct of a 5K road race that took participants from Arnos Vale up the Arnos Vale stretch, up the Vigie highway, through the Villa-Fountain road then back to Arnos Vale on the Windward highway.
The other sport inside Arnos Vale #1 was Rugby and the turnout of participants was good. The organisers engaged the younger participants in what is known as, Tag Rubgy, older ones played Touch Rugby, and the seniors, the most experienced were involved in playing competitive 7-a-side Tackle Rugby. There were two major sessions, one in the pre-lunch period and the other in the afternoon.
Boxing was rather interesting. There was a good mix of children, youths and older persons involved in this activity enough to make it quite attractive. The governing body hosted an exhibition that showcased the equipment used in the sport and an array of posters of boxing action.
The Boxers were housed on one of the courts at Arnos Vale and this gave them much by way of exposure to spectators. The ring was not missed given the innovative way in which the leaders of the national body arranged their activities.
Some of the boxers who attended the recently concluded Commonwealth Games in Delhi, India, were also on hand to speak about their experiences at the Games as well as to give an insight into their skill development at this stage of their respective careers.
Table Tennis occupied the Media Centre and may well have suffered from its distance from the rest of the sporting activities in terms of spectator support. Nonetheless the participation was good and the interest quite high. This is a relatively cheap sport that can grow amongst Vincentian youths in the future.
Tennis was also very interesting and attracted a number of youngsters who were taught the game and encouraged in the execution and honing of the required skills.
Basketball, Netball and Volleyball shared the other courts at the Arnos Vale Sports Complex. Volleyball, like Boxing, Table Tennis, Tennis and Boxing, sought to introduce participants to the fundamentals of their respective disciplines before engaging them in friendly competition.
Volleyball, Tennis and Basketball were involved in the full day’s activities while Netball held a much shorter slew of activities later in the day.
Cycling held its own on the roadway at Arnos Vale from just above the National Sports Council’s Office to the second gate at the top of the stretch. Participants were engaged in multiple events that challenged their riding skills which were never in short supply throughout the afternoon. The Cycling events concluded with a road race from Arnos Vale to Calliaqua and back.
Dr Perry de Freitas and his National Anti Doping Organisation (NADO), official representatives of the World Anti Doping Agency (WADA) in St Vincent and the Grenadines, were also on hand with an impressive display of exhibits on the importance of a healthy approach to participation in sport and the dangers of using performance-enhancing drugs to get ahead.
Adjacent to the NADO was the Taekwondo Federation, which mounted an exhibition on the sport. This featured everything from uniforms to training and competition equipment.
While credit must undoubtedly go to the Sport for All Commission and through this organisation to the NOC, it must be stated that the entire experience resulted from immense collaboration.
The National Sports Council facilitated access to the facilities at the Sports Complex and ensured that they were appropriately prepared to encourage the participants to want to take part.
The St Vincent Red Cross and the Police were equally enthusiastically supportive of the initiative and must be highly commended for the respective roles they played in facilitating and securing the event.
NICE Radio not only facilitated the promotion of the activities but also covered the Festival of Games following its regular Sunday morning programming giving listeners through St Vincent and the Grenadines and the Diaspora an opportunity to share in the experience.
Several media houses were represented to facilitate timely interviews and photography of the various participants going through their paces.
Each of the affiliates involved in the Festival of Games were ably assisted by volunteer workers who were only too delighted to have been involved in an activity that brought joy to so many.
Indeed, to many, the experience of this year’s Festival of Games may well be just what the Sport for All Commission needed to be brought into the consciousness of Vincentian society.
The work has only just begun.