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A THORNY ISSUE: If it isn’t broken . . .


Andi Thornhill

A THORNY ISSUE: If it isn’t broken . . .

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Some sports administrators have been the  architects of death of some events.
The first one that comes to mind is the National Industrial Games.
That was a thriving and well loved event in the 1970s when it was first known as the Fun Jamboree.
It was conceptualised for the workers in the various industries to have a day of fun while showcasing their athletic talent with the football final as a sideshow.
Those were the days when INTEL and Pine Hill Dairy had the biggest rivalry.
Names like Anthony “Milkman” Headley and Denis “Popkite” Harewood were on everyone’s tongue.
The various rivalries were supreme and the fun element was exceptional and there were no controversies. No need for them because the concept was clear; nobody was aiming to be the next Olympic star; they were there to enjoy themselves.
It was an instant and sustained hit with a packed stadium. Out of the blue, somebody decided the games should be more competitive and they even added more disciplines to the slate of events.
The shifting of gears proved to be the worst thing that could happen as the once popular Fun Jamboree became the National Industrial Games and soon died a natural dead.
The lesson: Don’t fix it if it isn’t broken!
In my opinion, Run Barbados became a victim of the same ploy.
Yes the event is still limping along but it is a far cry from the vibrant series that it was back in the day.
It quickly became a national event with Bajans eagerly looking forward to the internationally-flavoured 10k and the marathon.
    Traffic stopped in Bridgetown and its environs on Saturday for the 10k and it was simply amazing to see the huge numbers from the south coast to the west coast who defied sleep to be part of the cheer leaders for the marathon on Sunday.
    Lo and behold,the franchise for staging the series was handed to a foreigner in 2006. His intentions were probably good when he added more events but in my opinion,they proved counter productive as the introduction of the half marathon became a direct competitor of the iconic marathon with numbers dropping at an alarming rate.
Our population isn’t large enough to accommodate multiple events on the same day.
The marathon was dropped from the series from 2012. By then, national interest had declined appreciably.
The lesson: Don’t fix it if it isn’t broken. If we aren’t careful the National Senior Games will suffer a similar fate.
In fact, the attendance figures for the past two years given over the weekend by Minister of Social Care Steve Blackett, suggest that it’s an attraction that’s fading very fast.
 He said that 2 329 spectators watched the games in 2012 and only 1 290 last year. Even if there were mitigating circumstances that affected last year’s turnout as he indicated, it still represents a tremendous downturn in spectator support from former years.
Of course, we should remember that there was standing room only in the first two years of the games and the velodrome was used for additional seating.
The entertainment from the senior citizens was irrepressible. We lapped it up in rivers and couldn’t get enough nor could we wait for the next year.
Alas,we saw the dawn of teams going to the Huntsman Games in Utah and the event became intensely competitive as competitors tried to be on the team.
Subsequently,several controversies ensued as some claimed they were unfaired when not selected for Utah.
Not only that, much of the entertainment deserted the games and with it the large crowds.
While I embrace the aging active concept, I’m not sure that the addition of other disciplines has enhanced the senior games.
Now,we hear it will be held over two days.But why?
The previous one day only proved to be taxing on spectators maintaining interest because everything was compressed into one package and it took far too long to conclude.
However, with the brilliant idea, which was suggested by some many years ago, to have preliminaries coming on stream I don’t see the need for a second day.
The problem with the senior games is that the organisers have diverted too much from the original concept.
It will be a travesty if it dies because of the diversion.  
• Andi Thornhill is an experienced award-winning journalist.

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