Work has long since begun in earnest in respect of the plans by this country’s Ministry of Education to host the Windward islands Games 2013.
There is no doubt that given the challenges of the Vincentian economy it would be a tall order to deliver the Games but systems are being put in place to ensure that the event is of a particularly high standard and that the stage is set to facilitate outstanding performances by the participants.
The Windward Islands Games have a long history but have not always lived up to expectations. There was a lull in the hosting of the event for several years until it was finally revived.
There are some who would argue that even though the current crop of athletes deliver faster times at the Games the reality is that their predecessors would have delivered under some very trying conditions and therefore must be recognised for having set the pace in the region for several years.
Hosting the Windward Islands Games has always been a major challenge. In the past teams made use of inter-island ferries to get to the Games since this proved most cost effective. Today the preferred option is expensive air travel. It should be noted however that last year St Vincent and the Grenadines used boats to get to Grenada for the Games. This created its own challenges as emergent issues caused significant delays allowing the team to arrive too close to the start of the first competition.
The Windward Islands Games are intended to facilitate the building of stronger ties between the youth of the sub region. This is part of the regional integration process beginning at the smallest cell with the hope that if it starts right at this level then progress can be made through to the wider Caribbean.
The decision to utilise sport as the prime mover in building better relations between the youths of the Windward Islands sub region is well in line with contemporary thinking. The positive values attendant to sport are well known and have been the object of much research around the world.
Sport facilitates the development of strong, lasting bonds of friendship and engenders cooperation even though there is often great rivalry. In the midst of the hottest competition athletes earn each other’s respect, a feature that works at once in their individual and collective interest.
A second objective of the Windward Islands Schools Games is the exposure of youths from the different islands to a different culture resident in such close neighbourhoods. We often seem to think of one Caribbean culture but hardly take the time to acknowledge the significant differences between us. This holds true in the Windward Islands as well.
The Games therefore offers youths the opportunity to meet and share their differences as much as their similarities. They get an appreciation for each other and this is a very sound basis on which to build cooperation and ultimately, integration.
A third objective of the Games is the opportunity offered to youths to excel in sport.
At the Games the young athletes engaged in the different sports have an opportunity to showcase their skills and be identified as talented enough to move on to the international stage in elite sport.
The Games are a good testing ground for the athletes and their coaches.
Windward Islands School Games Coordination Commission
Given the growth of the annual competition it has been proposed that a Windward Islands Schools Games Coordinating Commission (WISGCC) be established at the earliest opportunity.
The intention is to establish the WISGCC as an overall body responsible for the Windward Islands Schools Games more generally and deliberately. The mission of the proposed organisation is to oversee the development of the annual Windward Islands Schools Games.
The specific objectives of the WISGCC as proposed are:
- 1. To ensure the sustainability of the annual Windward Islands Schools Games inclusive of strategic planning
- 2. To determine the eligibility and participation criteria for the annual Windward Islands Schools Games
- 3. To determine the Sports of the Games
- 4. To determine the Competition Programme of the Games
- 5. To determine the duration of Games
- 6. To oversee the selection of the host country
- 7. To approve the Games Village for the Games each year
- 8. To approve the plans and implementation strategies of the Local Organising Committee
- 9. To convene bi-annually
Admittedly, the Windward Islands Schools Games have been around for some time but there is always need for the adoption of a more professional approach to facilitate their transformation into the sub region’s Mini Olympics. The potential is clearly evident for these Games to achieve international prominence and that is the justification for the proposed new entity to oversee its growth and development.
The Windward islands Schools Games 2013 offers competition in Athletics, Basketball, Football, Netball and Volleyball. There are calls for the return of Cricket to be given due consideration in the future given the sport’s importance to the peoples of the Caribbean and of the Windward Islands no less so.
Football remains the most popular sport in the sub region as indeed across the Caribbean. The competition at the Games allows the respective islands to pit their under 20 teams against each other. This is the reason that the competition in Football is always so exciting.
Basketball and Volleyball competitions now include female components, thereby adding further excitement to the Games.
The Athletics competition is always exciting and appealing. It marks the start of the Games and given the significantly improved performances of athletes from smaller islands at the level of the Carifta Games, this is always an important showcasing of the next generation of challengers to the supremacy of Jamaica, The Bahamas and Trinidad and Tobago in region contests.
The Netball competition captures those athletes who would have been vying for regional supremacy at the under 16 level and others looking forward to the under 23 competition at the OECS level.
Over the past several years the competition between the teams has been particularly exciting. Those in possession of facilities – Grenada and St Lucia, have tended to dominate the top honours. St Vincent and the Grenadines has had its share of successes but in the absence of more developed sporting facilities the challenges are tremendous. Add to this the shortage of resources to facilitate more extensive preparation of the respective teams and one gets a better understanding of the hurdles that confront our athletes and coaches.
As it now stands the Windward Islands Schools Games features eight days of competition for the five sports. Teams spend a total of nine nights in the host country. Each team now comprises 62 athletes and eight officials, leaving a total of 280 participants in the Games Village of the host nation.
The addition of Cricket will require adding a few more days to the competition and to the stay of teams in the host country as well as 40 – 50 more participants overall.
Some suggest that the shortest version of the game of Cricket, 20/20, be considered since it is most attractive and generates immense excitement.
The Local Organising Committee (LOC) in St Vincent and the Grenadines has opted for the very first time in the history of the revived Windward Islands Schools Games to utilise a number of different competition venues spread across the country. Hitherto it was the norm to have a city chosen and host the sporting events in close proximity.
The Games of 2013 will witness the following:
Athletics – Arnos Vale
Basketball – New Montrose and Biabou
Football – Parkhill and Victoria Park
Netball – New Montrose, Questelles and Keartons
Volleyball – South Rivers, Questelles and Kingstown (Girls High School & NLA Triangle)
The decentralisation of the Games should work in their best interest. The visiting teams would be exposed to different parts of the host country and to the different sub cultures evident there.
Importantly, more Vincentians, especially youths, would be able to witness the competitions and know the future stars of the different sports from the sub region, their neighbours in the Windwards. This is an important aspect of sport that is often overlooked to the detriment of organisers and administrators of sporting events.
Thirdly, moving the Games around the country allows for the possibility of generating greater overall excitement in the competition for top honours and may well lead the LOC to garner much needed revenues to offset the heavy expenses involved in playing host.
The fact that the LOC is intent on having live streaming of the Games would certainly lend to the generation of interest in the outcome of the event and could give rise to more crowds at the local level when competitions are in the area.
Importantly, decentralisation could also generate greater interest on the part of the commercial sector as opportunities abound to come on board as sponsors or partners, offering incentives to both participants and patrons.
Windward Islands Schools Games 2013 promise to be different. These Games can be an important turning point in the way the Games are planned, executed, monitored and evaluated.
Should the WISGCC become a reality the sustainability of the Windward Islands Schools Games would certainly be assured, and give impetus to the broader sport development process across the sub region.
St Vincent and the Grenadines has an opportunity to show the Caribbean that we possess the competencies necessary to take the Windward Islands Schools Games to another level.
It is time for us to show what we can do for the sub region’s future, allowing the youths to show their wares in an explosion of sporting excellence.
The Games theme for 2013 is therefore most fitting – Four Teams, One Dream