Monday, April 22, 2024

EDITORIAL: Let’s spend money on our athletes


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IT IS VERY PROBABLE that at a time when a significant segment of the population is focused on national issues such as the annual Estimates debate, industrial action at the Barbados Water Authority (BWA) and the threat of similar action at the Customs and Excise Department, we can neglect some other equally important, but less dramatic, matters.

Last week, in the midst of all the headline-grabbing news, the island’s young people were pushing their bodies and minds to the limit in the national schools’ track and field championships at both the primary and secondary levels.

We believe also that with all the other events that competed for the attention of the population, these young athletes might not have received the full recognition they deserve.

And while congratulations are definitely in order for the champion schools – Christ Church Foundation and The Lester Vaughan (secondary) and St Stephen’s and West Terrace (primary) – the other schools that participated, and the scores of athletes who represented them, are all entitled to thump their chests with some measure of pride today.

Indeed, though dethroned as girls champions at the secondary level after a dozen years, the athletics team at Springer Memorial have absolutely nothing about which they should feel ashamed or dejected, while Sada Williams, a former Coleridge & Parry sprinter, now wearing the Harrison College colours, can hold her head high with her “Olympian” performance.

Our major point here, however, is that our young athletes have demonstrated clearly that they are deserving of more attention from those who control the national purse. The state of the National Stadium served as nothing more than a backdrop of national shame while our athletes were doing of their best.

The unsafe stands that had outlived their usefulness decades before the crumbling concrete forced their closure, ought to be demolished with haste. Stadiums are not usually built in a year, but we sincerely hope that Minister of Sport Stephen Lashley has by now devised a plan that can gain the support of his Cabinet colleagues, that will see facilities being put in place by the time the 2017 championships come around.

Without the cheering support of the thousands of their school colleagues and alumni who would normally fill the stands, our athletes still performed well. But the world over, it has been demonstrated for centuries now that there is a clear correlation between performance and spectator support – and that is whether we are talking about football, basketball, cricket or track and field.

Empty stands, albeit for good reasons, cannot paint a picture of inspiration for the athletes, and looking after the needs of our young people ought not to be sacrificed, even in tight economic circumstances. Sport, for too many of our young people, can at times represent the only viable avenue out of poverty, or perhaps the only highway to opportunity.

It would be short-sighted if today’s leaders are not sufficiently creative to be able to put the sporting infrastructure in place. Because whether or not we want to believe it, we can choose to spend the money now on creating positive, productive avenues, or be forced to spend it later in interventions designed to curtail anti-social behaviour.

The picture we presented to the world of the National Stadium infrastructure for the past few weeks should be a thing of the past by athletics season 2017. It is not beyond us.


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