Friday, April 12, 2024

Stadium doubt less than ideal


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LET?THERE?be no mistake.
The authorities have a moral obligation to have the track at the National Stadium ready for the primary and secondary schools’ athletics finals.
Anything less will be a massive let down to the children because this would be three years since a promise was made to refurbish the track and it is still in the works.
The workmen seem to be in a race against time and while assurances have been given that it will be done to accommodate school sports, it appears that not everyone is convinced that it will happen.
We must clear up this veil of uncertainty sooner rather than later.
I have no doubt that the intentions of the powers at be were genuine in respect of relaying the track but I honestly won’t fault anyone who thinks that it hasn’t been treated as a priority. Action speaks louder than words.
I think all of us understand that Government’s purse strings have been extremely tight in recent years due to the global economic crisis and this might be one of the most logical reasons why restoration of the track is still a work in progress. However, some with a vested interest in track and field may argue that even in the circumstances, there must be exceptions to the rule and this is one of them.
While we must take into account the overall athletics programme, we must admit that it is the school sports component that whips the nation into a frenzy during this term and we can’t be at a stage now pondering if and when the major facility for this event will be ready.
It is not only unsettling for athletes but also for organizers whose planning can only be tentative not knowing what to truly expect.
The truth is that if there were viable alternatives, there would be no uncertainty or headaches so all roads still lead to the Stadium.
Kensington Oval is definitely out because international cricket gets priority in March, but evenso I don’t think the redeveloped venue was built with athletics in mind.
It is a myth that any serious track and field meet can be held there and at best it is serving to assist some of the primary schools to stage their inter-house competitions.
The geometry of the new Kensington doesn’t permit for a rudimentary 400-metre track but in desperate times I think we still have to commend the authorities who run the venue for stepping in to help out.
I do recall, though, that back in 2009 when activity was again limited at the Stadium because of remedial work on the football field, alternate venues were used for the inter-house sports of some primary and secondary schools. So I’m not sure what difficulties may have prevented a similar thing from happening now.
The Ryan Brathwaite Track at the Lazaretto was also being considered but this too is still a work in progress. In any event, I don’t think it has the capacity to hold the thousands that attend the finals at school sports.
In short, we are back to square one and the Stadium it has to be.
I don’t even want to entertain any thoughts of not having the Barbados Secondary Schools’ Athletics Championships (BSSAC) not only because of the excitement that comes with the bragging rights but we can’t forget that our junior athletes have to prepare for the CARIFTA Games in the Bahamas, from March 29 to April 1, and this is one of the meets used as a qualifier.
Not only that, we don’t want to have BSSAC too close to CARIFTA because we need enough recovery time for the athletes who are either drained or injured after the bruising competition we have come to expect where some are expected to compete with injuries or are so driven to gain points that some decisions are questioned.
It will also be a major departure to see the primary schools equivalent – NAPSAC – coincide with Easter, so there are legitimate concerns about when the track will be completed.
Suffice to say, it is imperative to have it done with the speed of an Obadele Thompson.
• Andi Thornhill is an experienced, award-winning freelance sports journalist.


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