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ON REFLECTION: Condemn the stadium now!

Ricky Jordan

ON REFLECTION: Condemn the stadium now!

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I come close to shuddering nearly every year when inter-school sports come off at the National Stadium, because I fear that if the authorities continue to risk holding spectator events at this old, overused facility, it could one day come tumbling down.
I pray not, but it has worried me for a few years because our Stadium is 41 years old. No extensive upgrades have been done there since it opened in 1970; and the remedial work that occurs when someone important makes a comment is simply not good enough.
Using the obsolete stands of the Stadium today is to risk life and limb; and running on its track, which was last repaired in 1999 to host the Central American & Caribbean (CAC) Senior Championships, is to guarantee costly injury to any athlete. But this has been happening nearly every day for the last month.
And it should not even come down to which area of repair is more important at the National Stadium: the stands or the track. It’s clear, however, that since world champion hurdler Ryan Brathwaite and a few others vowed not to use the athletic track in its current state, Government and the athletic authorities have made a new track their highest priority.
In fact, the hurried promise of one official last year that a new track would be in place by June sounded almost ridiculous; for of what benefit is a newly laid track if spectators remain at risk
The world’s football governing body FIFA condemned our stadium in 2008, stating that stadia are no longer constructed like ours, while international track cycling was stopped because the velodrome had been long outdated. And when Usain Bolt set a world 200-metre junior record in 2003, the International Amateur Athletic Federation had difficulty ratifying it and further berated the poor design of our stadium. 
Meanwhile, the National Cultural Foundation shifted its Junior Kadooment to Kensington Oval in 2008 – for various reasons, including safety concerns – but the Stadium continues to be the venue of choice for masqueraders.
The Stadium holds good memories of epic calypso battles on the big stage at Waterford, massive masquerade bands parading across the track in a multiplicity of colours and costumes, but we’re all well aware that wonderful nostalgia can be quickly spoilt by tragedy.
I’m no engineer, and I do not know if the structure has been tested recently or if any further remedial work has been done; but I can recall as far back as the 1990s feeling some stands shake as spectators jumped and cheered on their favourite athletes, calypsonians and footballers, as well as their children.
Since then, imagine the wind that would have weakened certain areas of the stands over time, the years of rust, the constant bending and stretching of steel and concrete under the mass weight of hundreds of people every year. 
The Stadium is an important and well used facility – arguably as important as Kensington Oval, though not of equal vintage –  and some sporting organizations would find it nigh impossible to operate if it is closed; but it needs to be condemned by the state and rebuilt. 
And while I may again be accused of fostering gloom and doom, I don’t want something to be done about the National Stadium after a tragedy.  
Man of wonder
The amazing feat of being the third oldest man in the world, living on this world map dot called Barbados, has caused curious scientists to come to these shores to investigate what in this man’s genes could be responsible for his living so long, free of the many ailments that occur between ages 40 and 65. 
Having the great James Sisnett, aged 111, living on the same soil as I is a privilege; so when one colleague of mine mentioned in passing that the scientists should not seek to analyze merely his genetics via blood samples but find out about the God whom he serves, it was a comment I immediately found interesting.
It went straight to the heart of longevity. For I’m humbly persuaded that many illnesses and diseases come not only from sedentary lifestyles, lack of exercise and unwholesome diets, but also the approach one takes to life itself.
Now I do not know Mr Sisnett. And while I’m acquainted with a few members of his family, it gives me little insight into the character of this gentleman, who has seen and experienced much. But I believe what has kept him may be an accepting approach which, by now, has taught him that worldly achievements are empty, family is essential, and God is indeed our refuge and strength whether we believe so or not.
So what does Mr Sisnett or the many other centenarians in Barbados have that others don’t? This is where my colleague’s recommendation comes in; for up to this point only God knows what has kept Mr Sisnett. Ask Him.
Length of days, by the way, is a biblical promise: Proverbs 3 and the Fifth Commandment.
Meanwhile, my best wishes go out to Richard Lowdown Hoad, who somehow has the amazing ability to be philosphical and hilarious at the same time. Blessings.