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OFF CENTRE: Senior Games – respect due


Sherwyn Walters

OFF CENTRE: Senior Games – respect due

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Some people like to run duh mout’, jump to conclusions, leap into the dark, hurl insults, throw caution to the wind, put the cart before the horse, relay sensitive information and engage in other unprofitable activities. Others prefer to exercise themselves in track and field events.
So this Saturday some older folks are going to be at the National Stadium participating in the National Senior Games – the eleventh realization of this brilliant idea.
I want to express gratitude and appreciation to those who conceptualized the event, as well as to those who give of their time and effort to assist in the execution of what is to me a kind of national treasure. We should not take them for granted.
Undoubtedly, this event has increased interest in physical well-being among the fifty-plussers (as well, actually, as those a little younger – through the invitational events for the 45-49 age group). I believe it contributes to a reduction of obesity and low levels of fitness and other creeping forms of ill health, marginalization and the wobbling of life that may attend advancing age.
I am sure that the level of physical training that growing numbers of older people now engage in would probably not exist had it not been for the National Senior Games.
Where am I in all this? A sexagenarian power walker (well, I try). An informal associate “member” of one of the groupings arguably spawned by the Games. A regular spectator.
It is in this last regard that I will share some observations that I hope the organizers and volunteers would take to heart.
First of all, leh we get this straight: the contests on the track and field and the contestants should be given uncompromised pride of place.
I have begun to question whether the organizers and helpers are unswervingly committed to this. Apart from concerns about getting times and distances, problems have been encountered with not-so-pleasant aides.
And more. Here, I can hardly do better than  quote from the SATURDAY SUN editorial of July 16 last year, headlined Senior Games Off-Track:
“We get the feeling . . . that the sense of party threatens to squelch the sense of contest . . .
“. . . Not a few participating athletes feel almost marginalized, sensing that they are competing not only against fellow seniors but also against others who seem to be trying to grab the spotlight – deejays who constantly insert their music into the proceedings, stealing the athletes’ thunder, so that many a time as competitors run themselves out in the final metres of a race all they can hear is the pounding of bass, et cetera, rather than the roar and enthusiastic cheers of the crowd.
“Or announcers who overindulge in banter, often not giving requisite information or paying little attention to ready starters and competitors on the line – so much so that not infrequently the athletes could almost warm down before the heralds do their heralding.
“Let’s have the fun elements, the repartee, the music and so on – but as mere flavouring.”
That editorial also said: “Yes, we want entertainment. But the various contests on the track and field are incontrovertibly entertainment.
“The tension, the battle to a close finish, the never-giving-up efforts of even the last man or woman, the oomph in that long jumper’s take-off, the spectacle – that is entertainment. And that is the centrepiece. There should be nothing that even hints at trying to share the stage with it.”
What is happening at many sports events these days is the self-indulgent muscling in of non-contest elements into the centre of the do. And, of course, when you object, people will say one of two things: either “leh de people enjoy duhselves” (as if everything else must bow to the thirst for enjoyment) or “that is we culture” (as if culture is the one unjudgeable thing, that which answers to no standards; but, more importantly, as if anything dat start yesterday is “we culture” and wha’ we pratise fuh donkey years is not).
I say, for the National Senior Games, respect is due to the competitors and the competition first and foremost. Give proper information for each event; give complete, accurate listings of the competitors and their age categories; tighten up on giving results, times, heights, distances.
Enlargen the spectacle, not one another or oneself (announcers); be sensitive, above all, to the contestants and the competition and not to dance-hungry spectators (deejays). Many senior athletes take the Games seriously. The best we can do is to take them (the athletes and the events) seriously too.

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