Within the space of one month, the athletes of the Caribbean have been afforded the precious opportunities of competing on the global stage at two major championships, the World Athletics Championships in the United States last month, closely followed by the 2022 Commonwealth Games which concluded in England’s second city, Birmingham, just yesterday.
The latter, while confined only to countries in the British Commonwealth, nevertheless encompassed a range of sports outside of the World championships narrow track and field focus, and thus was open to a much wider field in sports far beyond that of the World Championships.
In fact, outside the Olympics there is no global sporting championships with such a wide spread.
Both sets of events afforded the Caribbean and other developing nations, especially smaller ones, with the opportunity to expose their sporting talents to the rest of the world and in fact, to utilize the space afforded to market themselves on the world stage. It is not just the sporting achievements which were on show but the publicity and media exposure offered could redound to such small- states in a number of positive ways.
If one examines the medal table of both sets of games, while it is true that bigger and well-endowed nations continue to rule the roost, one cannot help but notice that these same small and developing nations are more and more punching above their weight where the medal harvest and outstanding performances are concerned.
Within this broad group it is important for us to draw lessons from the performances of athletes from small-island nations like ours and absorb the implications for national development. Take Jamaica for instance whose achievements in the fields of sport and culture, whether it is Reggae and Bob Marley, or sprinting with Usain Bolt, Shelly-Ann Fraser Pryce and Elaine Thompson-Herath, the name Jamaica resounds far beyond the sporting chambers. The contribution towards tourism far outweighs what is spent in tourism ads and promotion.
Small-island nations like Antigua & Barbuda, St Kitts & Nevis and Grenada have benefitted immeasurably from the sporting triumphs of the likes of Viv Richards, Kim Collins and Kirani James. More educational and sporting opportunities have become available to young people so much so that entire careers are now open in all sorts of fields, including coaching and sports science.
While St Vincent and the Grenadines, though sending participants to both global sporting events, did not achieve medal success, we must be encouraged that athletes from St Lucia and Dominica, along with Grenada of course, took home silver medals from the Commonwealth Games.
We too have talent but that alone will not bring success on the global stage. First and foremost we have to make success at the highest levels, veritably a part of our national DNA. Governments can no longer treat the Ministry of Sports as an appendage to some other Ministries; it must be headed by a person with the capacity, drive and dedication. Our sporting facilities must be given priority, starting with the Diamond Athletic facility, the Home for football and the Arnos Vale facilities. School sports, facilities, training and facilitation of the right attitudes and opportunities must become a priority.
We have no time to waste or will continue to be left behind.