A THORNY ISSUE: NSC must give answers
A PROACTIVE MEDIA can make a big difference after all.
I believe it was the recent SunSports exposé about the many derelict pavilions under the watch of the National Sports Council (NSC) that forced the authorities to come out and make a statement on them and the plans to rectify the situation. The good news is, that there is money in the kitty to fix them.
Prior to this we were fed in drips about what was happening and what action would be taken to restore them to full working order.
I believe that when the spokespersons for institutions behave as though they are guarding crown secrets and have something to hide, the situation becomes very volatile, highly speculative and malicious, too, but nobody is any wiser about the particular matter in question when it isn’t addressed.
It could be that with quasi- government agencies, heads are not eager to speak openly or act expeditiously without the permission of a minister or permanent secretary, if they think an item has the potential to be controversial. They do everything to ensure that the buck doesn’t stop with them, but when the minister intervenes the public would be quick to say that he is trying to micro-manage the organisation.
I understand the notion of employees trying to observe protocol and trying their best not to speak out of turn, but very often the questions they try to deflect from media scrutiny aren’t anything they shouldn’t be able to answer, given the nature of the position they hold.
Speaking specifically about the recent controversies surrounding the NSC pavilions and particularly the National Stadium, there has been too much dilly dallying in terms of officials taking the public into their confidence and giving information that would assist potential users in their event planning.
What I saw on Friday convinced me even more of this. There was a full brigade of representatives from various sectors touring the Stadium, to see what infrastructural arrangements could be put in place to assist the organisers of the Barbados Secondary Schools Athletics Championships in having their annual meet.
Of course, the NSC took the lead in this as the overseers of the facility, but it seems that this concerted effort was only born out of media pressure, public outcry and sports administrators’ frustration about not having adequate seating and other amenities to accommodate spectators in huge numbers.
It didn’t take rocket science to know that in the second term, school and other athletics championships would be staged and that the Stadium would be a focal point. Clearly, the authorities had more than enough time before the rush began to meet with stakeholders and tell them what to depend on.
Instead, a situation was created where some groups made tentative bookings for use of the stadium and the Usain Bolt Complex simultaneously because it appears that no guarantees were given about the former, which still seems to be the preferred choice by the majority over the latter, mainly on the grounds of vastly more affordable rental fees.
Having said that, I think that kudos should be given to those concerned for the support given so far to the schools that have used the Stadium for their sports. It is the probable challenge of staging bigger events that has caused claims of procrastination to surface.
I believe it would be pertinent also for the NSC to clarify whether it is true that only the A and B stands have been condemned because of structural flaws, but the other three are safe to use.
Is it true, too, that weightlifters still train under one of the condemned stands, and, if so, who will be liable, God forbid, if there is a mishap and people are injured?
I don’t believe that there is any witch-hunt against the NSC, but at the same time, there are questions that need answers.
• Andi Thornhill is an experienced sports journalist and media consultant.