Thursday, April 18, 2024

EDITORIAL: Invest in our athletes’ development


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MONTHS BEFORE THE start of the Rio Olympic Games there was an avalanche of negativity in many of the world’s leading media outlets. The word was that nothing would be ready, Brazil was in a political mess and the greatest sporting spectacle would be nothing more than an expensive absurdity on that country. The Olympics are drawing to a close this weekend and have lived up to expectations, and more, in our corner of the world.

The drug cheats have been virtually rooted out, the Zika virus has not caused a health catastrophe as predicted, and protestors did not bring the country to its knees. Yes, there have been problems – water turning its colour in some swimming pools, issues in the Olympics Village, and robberies, one of which has left a handful of American swimmers in a muddle.

Reaction on the streets and social media indicate that globally people have been glued to the coverage, whether rooting for their own heroes like Barbadians were for Akela Jones, or identifying with their heroes like Usain Bolt, Simone Biles, Mo Farah and Michael Phelps. The games have brought people together.

The Olympics are not just about national glory and individual achievement. Success cannot be measured only in the number of medals won.

Thankfully, the International Olympic Committee did not give in totally to the threats and bullying antics of the Russians whose state-sponsored cheating was exposed.

These games have proven to be a celebration of competition, goodwill and pride. They have been a history lesson for many of us, highlighting the ethnic diversity in some distant lands and have shown the importance of excellence, friendship and respect. The Olympics also highlight the importance of the mass media and their positive impact on daily lives.

The past two weeks have brought many feel-good moments, even in the case of the Barbadians who are leaving Rio without a medal. But, even before our team left, we knew there was little chance of getting on the podium. Nevertheless we must be appreciative of all our athletes, recognising that they gave of their best in a fiercely competitive environment. We have things to moan about given the low level we occupy in sport even at the regional level, but we know that much needs to be done, with the physical facilities and in the preparation of the athletes. Nonetheless they deserve our full support and praise.

There is always the argument that given our showing we should not be sending participants to this elite competition or other major games. But that stance is illogical because as long as our athletes qualify, they should be given the chance to compete on the world stage.

This is why the public and private sectors must make the investments to provide adequate physical facilities and also to develop our people. Positive results can do wonders for a small country such as Barbados.


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