WISG2013 – building bridges, opening vistas

Tomorrow, Saturday 3 August, would witness the final competitions and the official closing ceremonies of the Windward Islands Schools Games 2013, hosted here at home.
The theme, Four Teams, One Dream, sought to capture at once the original intent of these Games since their introduction decades ago as well as that of their revival 12 years ago.
The annual Windward Islands Schools Games 2013 have shown that the founding fathers were on the right track when they conceptualised this festival of sports. They must have seen that indeed we as the peoples of this sub regional grouping have much in common and that there is more that unites us than divides us. In the case of the Windward Islands Schools Games the foregoing is significantly more than a cliché. It is the basis on which we can build on the foundations laid in respect of the process towards the attainment of genuine regional integration.
The fact that we are small does little, in and of itself, to facilitate regionalism. Many thought that it was easier to forge unity amongst smaller units but this has proven not to be the case. The Caribbean, dominated as it is by small island nations, have found immense difficulty in facing up to the challenges of regional integration.
The blame game does not get us anywhere. What is important is that we stay focused and remain firmly committed to the realisation of regional integration.
The declaration of the official opening of the Windward islands Schools Games 2013 was done by the Hon. Prime Minister (Acting) and substantive Minister of Education, Girlyn Miguel.
In her address to the gathering at the Games Village, the West St George Secondary School, Minister Miguel officially welcomed the participants from the other Windward Islands to St Vincent and the Grenadines. She extolled the virtues of sport and the importance of the annual sports festival to the unity of our peoples in the sub region as a significant contribution to the broader Caribbean integration process.
Minister Miguel reminded the gathering of the role played by the Games in the nurturing the talents of successive generations of youths of the Windward Islands.
For his part the Minister of Tourism, Sport and Culture, Cecil McKie, himself a former athlete, commended the four countries on their continued resolve to ensure the Games are held annually.
McKie noted the timing of this year’s edition of the Games coincided with the country’s celebration of the recent success of the Netballers in reclaiming the OECS Under 23 title as well as the hosting of the two One-Day Internationals between the West Indies and Pakistan.
McKie also lauded the efforts of the governments of the Windward Islands and the sponsors, to ensure the realisation of the Games, annually.
Chief Education Officer, Ms Louann Gilchrist, commended the members of the Local organising Committee for their diligence in the preparatory work entailed in the realisation of the Games.
Ms Gilchrist also called for the participants to be imbued with the fundamental Olympic principles inherent in the concept of Olympism. She called for fair play to be a guiding principle of the Games even as the athletes play hard to win.
The representatives of the participating teams of Dominica, Grenada and St Lucia each took turns at bringing greetings from their respective countries and governments. Mr. Yehudi John spoke on behalf of Dominica while Permanent Secretaries, Veda Bruno-Victor and Fortuna Belrose spoke on behalf of Grenada and St Lucia respectively.
Saturday’s ceremony was the very first time that the official opening had taken place indoors, well away from the sun, a feature that could easily become permanent given the favourable comments that emerged following its conclusion.
Other openings
St Vincent and the Grenadines introduced another innovative feature to the annual Windward Islands Schools Games.
For the first time each of the sport competitions started with a small official opening ceremony at which the athletes entered the competition arena in a march past, anthems were either played or sung and the Athletes’ and Officials’ Oaths delivered.
The individual opening ceremonies certainly added value to the respective sporting competitions and served to lift the overall image of the sports and of the Games more particularly.
The athletes conducted themselves with dignity on each occasion and showed immense appreciation for the innovation.
From comments received it appears that the innovation of having individual sport opening ceremonies would be an added feature of the annual Windward Islands Schools Games of the future.
Competition in the WISG2013 has been very keen throughout.
The first round of football matches saw ties all around. Grenada and Dominica played to a 1-1 draw while St Vincent and the Grenadines and St Lucia completed the 90-minute encounter goalless.
In the opening of the Netball competition, St Vincent and the Grenadines defeated St Lucia in a very close encounter 33-31 while Grenada defeated Dominica.
In Volleyball, St Lucia hammered the Vincentians in the first encounter 3-0 while Grenada did the same to Dominica.
in the opening matches for Basketball St Vincent and the Grenadines defeated St Lucia while Grenada won their encounter with Dominica.
The only sport that has already completed competition in Athletics and this was really exciting.
It was the first time in the twelve years of the revival of the games that the athletics competition has been so close.  Of course, historically, St Vincent and the Grenadines has not done well in this component of the Games largely because in the determination of the overall representative team the sport of athletics was the one sacrificed.  However, on this occasion the change in the rules of the Games that permitted a certain number of specialists in each sport, allowed for the selection of more genuine athletes for the athletics competition.
At one point in the athletics competition, which took place on Monday 29 July, the third day of the Games, instead of the usual first day, because of the unavailability of Arnos Vale due to Cricket, Grenada, St Lucia and St Vincent and the Grenadines were tied on 167 points, with only a few events left.  This added tremendous excitement to the competition.
Grenada won the athletics competition with a total of 222 points.  St Lucia narrowed edged St Vincent and the Grenadines by a mere two-point margin, 212 to 210 respectively.  Dominica finished 4th on 202 points.
It was the first time that St Vincent and the Grenadines emerged from the track and field competition without being humiliated and the first time at home that they team posed a threat to the eventual winners.
The Boyde brothers, Reuberth and Reberto, finished in their characteristic gold and silver medal positions in the 200m 21.61 and 21.70 respectively, showing the form that took them to the semi finals in the same event at the recently concluded IAAF World Youth Championships in the Ukraine. They were placed second and third respectively in the 100m posting times of 10.86 and 10.94.
The twins were also particularly instrumental in the Vincentian team’s scorching victory in the second track event of the day, the 4 x 100m.
Brandon Parris and Kashique Oliver did a one-two in the 400m completing the distance in 48.89 and 49.77 respectively. The latter then returned to win the 800m, turning the tables on the St Lucian Carifta bronze medallist, Edgar Mabeq, in 2:00.05.
The Vincentians also won the final event of the competition, the 4 x 400m relay in a time of 3:25.53.
Among the girls, Philliscia Dembar took the gold in the Shot Put (11.28m) and silver in the Discus (30.82m).
Aziza Stowe captured the gold in the High Jump with a leap of 1.55m.
While many thought that the Vincentian team did well there is little doubt that with greater cooperation and much less selfishness the results could have been much more favourable.
Perhaps when athletes stop being the pawns in coaching power-play the athletes and the country may eventually come to take rightful precedence.
It was a delight for Foster Huggins, one of the participants of the Games in 1954, to have been able to witness this year’s edition and to share in the excitement, especially of the track and field competition on Monday 29 July, of the friendly yet fierce rivalries attendant to the Games this time around.
While the crowd support was not as one would have hoped those who came out to witness the different competitions made the teams feel that they mattered.
Participating teams commented on the relatively small crowds in attendance but nonetheless expressed gratitude for the support they received on occasions.
The absence of early advertisements would have severely dented the promotion of the Games.
The jury is still out on whether or not the decision to withhold advertisements until after the carnival celebrations were completed was justified.
The fact is that much more ought to have been done in respect of promoting the Games, especially prior to the closure of the final terms of school.
St Vincent and the Grenadines has immense talent but the organisations must get serious about the development of sport.
As a nation we can do much more than is currently placed before us.
The future
Plans are now in train to establish a permanent Regional Coordinating Commission for the annual Windward Islands Schools Games. The primary responsibilities of this body will include but not be limited to:
Determine the sports on the Programme of the annual Windward Islands Schools Games
Examine and approve the designated infrastructural facilities of the host country
Evaluate the technical arrangements for the Games offered by the host country
Evaluate all logistical arrangements offered by the host country
Review the proposed budget
Receive the official Report on the Games of the previous year and facilitate knowledge transfer of the Games
Marketing & Sponsorship of the Games at the regional level
It is envisaged that the seven-member Commission would serve a four-year term.
The expectation is that the Commission would elevate both the image and standard of the Games in the future as well as secure financing to ensure their sustainability.
The Games of 2013 are almost at an end. The Commission would immediately review the event and planning for 2014 would commence.