A THORNY ISSUE: Nuff lip service but little action
IT’S ABOUT TIME that all stakeholders stop talking and start doing something fundamental for sports development.
It might go a long way in not having the same repetitive conversations after our national teams return from major competitions.
I have been hearing the same old talk for every year of my 40 in journalism. The performance of the team at the just concluded Olympics managed, inevitably, to successfully warm up cold soup.
I shudder to think – if God spares my life – that after the 2020 Games in Japan we will still be at square one in this banal debate about what we must or must not do to win medals or who shouldn’t be on the team or if there were more officials than athletes.
Don’t get me wrong: retrospection is perfect if we want to improve our lives, but what if we continue to identify the problems, create solutions but never apply the medicine and treatment for the ailment? It is more than likely that the wound won’t heal and that we will encounter the same obstacles as before.
As the current debate rages on, it is clear that some are merely doing due diligence in respect of not winning a medal, but that’s a simplistic approach if we don’t tie the root causes to such an outcome.
If you want to win a medal, you have to put systems in place to win that medal. Such accolades aren’t given out on a complimentary basis at international games like the Olympics.
We have a tendency to put the cart before the horse in these matters and expect miracles. In this context, I will humbly submit that our last “miracle” was achieved 16 years ago at the Sydney Olympics where Obadele Thompson got a bronze medal in the blue riband men’s 100 metres.
Truthfully, if I follow this line of thinking, it would be very disrespectful of Thompson’s own ingenuity, the hard work put into gaining his achievement and the support he got from different sources. There was no miracle. We had a genuine world-class athlete who delivered on the day because the background work was done and a place on the podium was well deserved.
That achievement provided a bandwagon for the Government of the day and others to wax poetically about the pride and industry of Bajans and what needed to be done to go from bronze to gold at the next time of asking.
Did any of it materialise or was it proven to be mere rhetoric? The evidence is conclusive concerning the match of words versus action.
Hurdler Ryan Braithwaite created the exact scene of euphoria and promises when he became a world champion in the 110-metre hurdles in Berlin. There was more sweet talk from the powers that be about putting things in place to sustain Brathwaite’s success and to pave the way for others with talent and aspirations to get to the top. Again, words versus action prove that certain sentiments expressed were merely slogans.
That’s the point. We must go far beyond the slogans and provide the athletes with the support they need to transform potential into the medals we so long for.
I believe that if our volleyball and hockey teams of the past had been provided with that extra push, they would have made indelible marks on the international stage. And just recently, too, the women’s hockey team won the test event in Rio leading up to the Olympics. Isn’t that enough evidence that with more assistance, this team can make even greater progress in the future?
But as we speak, there is still no sports policy, despite both political administrations “working on it” since Adam was a lad.
National sporting federations are still paying heavy duties on gear if imported from outside the Caricom zone and some of the same organisations have bitter infighting and the only ones suffering are the same athletes they purport to represent.
The National Stadium is a virtual wreck. There’s uncertainty as to whether the Government will merge its sporting agencies to cut costs. Talk about having things twisted!
Can you see why the same discussion will be on the table in 2020 if we continue like this?
• Andi Thornhill is an experienced sports journalist.