Congratulations to the government of Tokyo and others for being able to execute one of the largest global events on the events calendar during a pandemic. It was an opportunity again for humankind to demonstrate what separates us from the rest.
Man is the only animal that strives to be more than he is…it is the indomitable spirit within that makes him human.Steven Lang
Barbadians although happy to support the 8 member team selected to attend the 2020 Tokyo Olympics – special mention to Sada Williams who missed out on qualifying for the 400m final by the narrowest of margins – there was the disappointment of not being able to experience the euphoria of a podium finish. The every four year post evaluation will now take place with the usual mouthings from government and supporting bodies to suggest they will work to ensure local athletes are ready for the Paris Olympics in 2024.
The obvious question Barbadians on the street always ask is why Jamaica, Trinidad, Bahamas, Grenada and a few other regional countries continue to produce podium ready athletes. A visit to those islands to see the stadia gives a first clue. In the same way a tradesman needs the right tools to satisfactorily complete the job, athletes need adequate facilities and ancillary support to be able to deliver and sustain top performances. The local national stadium is a sight for sore eyes and an embarrassment all Barbadians should share. When current and aspiring athletes have to attend or perform at the local stadium, it cannot be a positive physical or mental exercise. How many times have NAPSAC and BSSAC events had to be relocated to ‘cow pastures’ or cancelled in recent years because of the unavailability of the national stadium? What has been the long term effect of those decisions?
We wonder why there is growing cynicism and apathy shown by Barbadians? For as long as the blogmaster can recall both administrations – DLP and BLP – have given lip service to supporting sports in a meaningful way. The sports ministry is almost always attached to the most junior minister in the Cabinet. Case in point Minister Dwight Sutherland, before him John King. From time to time the BU family has joined others to inquire about the development and implementation of a relevant National Youth Development Strategic Plan.
The other challenge worthy of mention is the ‘professional’ sports administrators- a small group of individuals who are recycled at the various sporting associations, Barbados Olympic Association, Barbados Football Association, Barbados Cricket Association, Amateur Athletic Association and others, engaging in questionable transactions and behaviour with zero accountability. In the same way members of the political class close ranks to protect their own, so too sports officials in Barbados. The blogmaster has unsuccessfully reached out to several of them to encourage a blowing of the whistle on unethical and possibly illegal behaviour. Our athletes struggle to deliver world class performances, no fault of theirs but the administrators continue to enjoy the travel per diem, accommodation at 4 and 5 star hotels and other perks attached to roles. Enough already with the retort that administrators are volunteers.
The government and NGO bodies responsible cannot be serious about developing the potential of our young people and continue to commit inadequate resources to a relevant sports program. The benefits of developing such a program operating under the umbrella of a National Youth Development Strategic Plan are well documented. If we do not create an outlet for our young people to channel talent, it will give rise to problematic behaviours. Although there is opportunity for some to gain from athletic scholarships overseas, the majority will benefit from positive lifestyle choices and interpersonal relationships. It is a win win for the quality of society.
Despite challenging economic times government should commit to proportionately carving 100k from respective budget heads in the next appropriation exercise. Leading sports associations should commit to zero travel and 50% reduction of per diem to be reallocated to DIRECTLY support to the athletes. This is a simple suggestion to ram home the point that we we are doing is not working.
Our young people are no different to those from other countries, what separates them is the lack of opportunities created for them by the establishment. We continue to fail them. We prefer to engage in petty, partisan, political behaviour while the leaders of tomorrow are not prioritized.