WISG2013 now part of Vincentian sporting history

neytballOn the evening of Saturday 3 August 2013 the renditions of the respective national anthems of Dominica, Grenada, St Lucia and St Vincent and the Grenadines coincided with the lowering of their flags, marking the official end to the Windward Islands Schools Games 2013 (WISG2013), which opened on 27 July.
The WISG2013 Games Village, the West St George Secondary School, was the venue for the emotional Closing Ceremony just as it was for the official Opening Ceremony earlier, and provided an ideal atmosphere for the occasion, having been appropriately decorated and outfitted.
For the Closing Ceremony, the hall was filled with the participating delegations as well as scores of invited guests, all of whom joined with the Local Organising Committee in recognising and awarding the outstanding athletes and teams and finally saying fond farewell to all participants for having provided us all with seven days of exciting competition and entertainment.
There is little doubt that the host country, St Vincent and the Grenadines, was better prepared to play this role than on any of the previous occasions since the revival of these Games, 2005 and 2009.
The Local Organising Committee (LOC) was in place early enough to facilitate the kind of planning necessitated by such events.
There was a desire to ensure that this year’s edition of the WISG was memorable and so much effort was put into it. The LOC introduced a number of innovations to the hosting of the Games in 2013 that many hope would be sustained as integral features of the sporting spectacle going forward. These were:
A theme for the Windward Islands Schools Games – Four Teams, One Dream.
The intention here was to allow participants to recognise the important role of sport in the process of regional integration. We are all part of a sub region in the wider Caribbean. Every opportunity we can come together should be used to further the cause of regionalism. Our students must understand the importance of sport in bringing us together.
A tag line: Windward Islands Schools Games – The Place Where Legends Are Born.
Every one of the Windward Islands has produced sporting legends who can proudly point to the important role that their participation in the annual Windward Islands Schools Games has played in their career pathway in sport.
The most renowned of these sporting legends in the Windward Islands is of course Grenada’s Kirani James, Olympic (2012) and World Championships (2011) 400m champion. St Lucia’s Laverne Spencer has won multiple regional and international titles but is yet to claim either a World Championship or Olympic title.
The annual Windward Islands Schools Games offers our students an opportunity to showcase their sporting talent and kick-start career paths to the attainment of legendary status well beyond the shores of their respective countries and the Windward Islands sub region.
Decentralisation of the sport competitions
The idea of bringing the sport to the masses in different parts of the host country is new to the Games. This idea was first mooted by the current Chairman of WINLOTT, Murray Bullock, and found favour with this year’s host, the Ministry of Education, and the LOC.
At the conclusion of the Games of 2013 it was certainly heart warming to hear the representative of Dominica, Yehudi John, laud the innovation and indicating how much it afforded the participants an opportunity to experience the host nation much more than when restricted to one location as has been the norm over the past 12 years.
It is one thing to be told about a country. It is quite another to be taken through it in a manner that allows one to arrive at one’s own appreciation of what the place and people are really like.
A Games logo
The logo was a simple design of an athlete sporting different colours in motion. The concept was at once to signify the participants as well as the dynamism of the movements involved in the various competitions and the excitement generated by their actions.
Indoor Opening Ceremony
Over the years the Opening Ceremony has been held at the same outdoor arena as the Athletics competition. This has been convenient because the competition followed quickly on the heels of the conclusion of the ceremony. Participating teams have always complained about the intensity of the heat and the rather lengthy programme due in large measure to the speeches and cultural presentations involved as the participants stand outdoors.
The offer of a location away from the heat of the sun was a welcomed change as also was the interlude of pan.
Individual opening ceremonies for each sport
Each sport is different in myriad ways. The option of having the sport specific competitions begin with their own opening ceremony came from the practices involved in the Olympic Games.
The inclusion of this feature in the Windward Islands Schools Games allowed the participating athletes and the patrons to feel that in many ways their competition was special even as it was different.
Daily meetings
There were daily meetings between the Local Organising Committee and the management of each of the participating teams for effective monitoring and control of all aspects of the Games.
The meetings allowed for daily review of the progress of the Games in its different components and addressed very quickly any concerns raised or problems identified that could hinder the smooth and efficient conduct of the Games.
Passing of the Baton
The symbolic passing of the Baton from the host LOC of the current edition of the Games to the host of the next edition was another innovation from the LOC.
The LOC of the Games just completed, in handing over the baton, also committed to the sharing of information, the transfer of knowledge of all aspects of the planning and execution of the Games. This assures the next host of immense support in respect of their planning process. They would not be starting from ground zero.
Sport Clinic
Thanks to Adonal Foyle, St Vincent and the Grenadines was able to facilitate the hosting of a Clinic courtesy his Kerosene Lamp Foundation, for all of the participants.
The Games Village provided the setting for this activity, which was very much appreciated.
Foyle was himself enthused about the opportunity and made the best possible use of it.
Lowering of the flags
The lowering of the flags of the participating countries to the accompaniment of the respective national anthems as the final act of the Games is again particularly important.
It was a very emotional moment for all when the persons in the audience all stood up in respect for the national anthems and the lowering of the flags. It was also symbolic of their gratitude to the participants for the intense competition and the immense joy brought to our shores for the duration of their stay in St Vincent and the Grenadines.
Official Report on the Games
For the very first time the Official report of any edition of the Windward Islands Schools Games was completed, printed and distributed to participating delegations as part of the official Closing Ceremony.
The LOC wanted to be certain that the report was comprehensive enough to serve at once as a guide to the next host, St Lucia.
The first draft was presented to the participating delegations to elicit comments prior to the final draft being prepared.
Reality check
Our country’s hosting of the WISG2013 was indeed an historic occasion in numerous ways and the participating teams can all attest to this.
The success of the Games did however highlight several areas of weakness in the sport development process in St Vincent and the Grenadines.
Despite repeated pleading the sports fraternity continue to suffer from the absence of an indoor facility.
Basketball, Netball and Volleyball are no longer outdoor sports at the competitive level. The world has long since moved past the hosting of competitions in these sports on the kind of hard, unyielding surfaces that we still use, given their deleterious impact on the players.
During the Games of 2013 there were several occasions on which the competition had to be stopped because rain fell and rendered the courts unsuitable for play due to easy slippage.
Several of our venues are without any form of adequate cover for patrons and players alike.
Above all, the athletes continue to clamour for a national stadium.
There is little doubt that had our athletes been exposed to better sport facilities they would have been far more competitive in the just concluded Windward Islands Games 2013.
There is also reason to believe that St Vincent and the Grenadines needs to pay more attention to the administration of the different sports practised here. We do need to raise our level of professionalism in the field of sport administration.
Finally, our coaches must step up their delivery of quality preparation of athletes for competition. While there was evidence of work undertaken in the preparatory process it was far from complete and certainly did not reflect the kind of coordination and collaboration required by the host country.
St Vincent and the Grenadines is one small society. No benefit can be gained when coaches in any sport and coaches in different sports are working at odds with each other.
The overall performance of Team St Vincent and the Grenadines in the WISG2013 was certainly diminished by the lack of cooperation between the coaches and the professional limitations at the administrative levels.
We can certainly do better.