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Stage School Sports!


Andi Thornhill

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It will be a savage blow to all of us who have a vested interest in school sports if there’s none this year.
The main victims will be the children, whose minds would have been set on having the competitions because they have been promised for three consecutive years that the track at the National Stadium would be relaid.
It is a promise the powers that be have failed to keep even if they can bring proof that extenuating circumstances prevented its completion by the time promised.
Prior to some of the technical issues that have been cited recently, I believe that the economic squeeze could also have caused the delay.
I think any reasonable person would have some sympathy in such a situation but the downside is that nobody should have spoken as if it was a surety, knowing that it depended on the availability of funds which seemed in short supply at the time.
This was a mistake because the athletes duly expected that they would be competing on the new track by now. And it’s not that they are gullible or impressionable, it’s that they hold on to the words of our leaders as if they were gospel.
There were mixed signals from the start of the year and the organizations that control primary and secondary school sports were scrambling to find contingencies just in case the stadium wasn’t ready.
Kensington Oval and the Ryan Brathwaite Track at the Cave Hill Campus of the University of the West Indies were possible options but were then discarded.
Kensington became out of bounds because of international cricket and the Ryan Brathwaite Track is still very much a work in progress plus there were concerns whether it would have the capacity to accommodate the numbers normally seen at the finals of both events.
Hope was again restored about the stadium with talk that it could finish by the end of February, only for organizers to be told that the likely date for completion is May – further desperation as nobody was prepared for this.
Earlier, the secondary schools were thinking of doing field events at Harrison College with limited attendance and, of more recent vintage, the primary schools were thinking of using Blenheim despite security concerns, an idea which has great merit as it’s an open venue.
It has become a very emotional issue and I think the time has come to stop apportioning blame and for all parties to put their heads together to see when, not if, the respective sports can be staged.
Providing that the stadium is ready by May, it could be a benefit to stage NAPSAC after the Common Entrance Examination so that Class 4 primary school students, in particular, will get the opportunity to go out on a high while there can be competition in BSSAC among secondary students even though some might still be preparing for and in some instances completing their CXCs. Admittedly, though, the scheduling of promotion exams might also pose some problems in this regard.
What if they are held after the bulk of exams and the children have loads of down time to play with?
I think it is much too early to close the door on exploring the possibilities of staging the competitions this year as it is in everybody’s interest to maintain our rich tradition of school sports. We should try to ensure there’s no break in transmission.
Early or late, for whatever reason, I can’t wait to witness the fierce but friendly battles for supremacy and bragging rights.
• Andi Thornhill is an award-winning freelance sports journalist.

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