EDITORIAL: Stadium call step in right direction
WE APPLAUD the decision of Minister of Sports Stephen Lashley to close the stands at the National Stadium in the interest of public safety.
In fact, while the point may be moot at this stage, we hold the view that the decision should have been taken earlier. The problem of rusted metal columns and corroded roof sheets, plus the falling pieces of concrete from the super structure combined to leave us feeling quite uneasy when thousands of students, teachers and parents occupied those stands during the recent primary and secondary schools athletics championships.
Luckily, the island completed the various competitions without tragedy and our athletes went on to represent us with distinction at the annual CARIFTA Games in St Kitts.
“It’s something we had to do. I could not sit any longer as minister and just hope and pray that a patron isn’t seriously injured while attending an event at the National Stadium,” Lashley said.
The minister explained that the closure would last only as long as it takes to make the facility safe, by executing necessary repairs. Our position is that the stands should be demolished, a position also held by the minister, but he sees that as a long-term solution.
We urge the minister to be as bold with this solution as he was with the decision to close the stands. Bite the bullet and make securing funds for new stands a national priority. Even without the safety issue the National Stadium was a national disgrace when compared with what just about every other island in the region offers its athletes and guests.
Our fear is that once we are able to plaster over the current issues at the Stadium we will settle back into our normal state of comfort for another decade or two, to the detriment of our athletes and the potential they possess.
The Government is talking about rewarding our athletes with national scholarships, and that we fully support. However, unless we provide the best environment within which to create and nurture athletes of worth at every level of competition, then we will never be able to see them push themselves to the limit of their potential.
A modern stadium, administrators who understand what is needed and national policies that facilitate will combine to see our athletes excel on the regional and world stage like never before. If we create the physical environment where families feel compelled to come out and support their members then our business community will want to be in place to reap the rewards from having such a captive audience.
The natural spin-off from that will be a track and field fraternity that will be able to command the financial support of those same business entities through sponsorship and otherwise.
With that we will have the makings of a track and field regime that will rival anything
Jamaica or Trinidad has been able to achieve.
We may not have the large population base to draw on as they do, but we never needed it in cricket to excel because we had the physical infrastructure and the organisational wherewithal to do it.
It is time we stop limiting ourselves and our young athletes by trying to achieve 21st century results while operating with long outdated facilities from a bygone era.