The views expressed here are solely that of the writer and don’t reflect or endorse anyone or organisations.
Commentary by Michael Bascombe
I took some time off to concentrate on some school work and the Diaspora Youth Summit staged in New York two weekends ago. However, I have not abandoned the campaign to get the authorities to relay the synthetic track and provision of electronic equipment at the Track and Field and Football Stadium at Queen’s Park.
As I continue to build arguments in favour of the track and field stadium becoming a major priority I have been discussing with close friends in the sporting circle about the re-introduction of the Whitsuntide Games. Even without a stadium, this was the region’s premier track and field championship as late as the 90s. The Games re-emerged about a decade ago and in 2004 as an Area Permit Meet of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) but the damage to the track and the apparent theft of equipment following Hurricane Ivan in September of that year dealt a serious blow to the sport.
But history will show that some of the region’s top athletes came to town including the likes of Sherone Simpson, who won the women’s 100m, and was part of the victorious Jamaican 4x100m relay team at the Olympic Games in
Athens, Greece. The Whitsuntide archives also showed that our own Alleyne Francique ran 44.59 seconds in front of his home crowd, his second fastest time during his nine-year international career.
The Grenada Athletics Association (GAA) has indicated their readiness to resume the championship once a new track and the equipment are available.
Therefore, the authorities should take the cue and realise the dreams of hundreds of local and regional athletes who otherwise can’t participate in the annual Junior CARIFTA Games but could look forward to keen rivalry at the
Whitsuntide Games.
The Whitsuntide Games in June will push the young athletes to extend their training and eventual improvement.
That too, will propel and strengthen the club structure as many will participate in representing the respective clubs since at the school level things go to bed after the Secondary Schools’ Athletics Championships.
And while on the subject of the national stadium and Whitsuntide Games, whose idea it was to leave out a velodrome in the previous design and construction. Cycling was an exciting and integral element of the Whitsuntide Games in the 70s and 80s, with Grenada producing some outstanding regional cyclists in Everod Samuel and Roger Pierre
to name a few.
The return of the Whitsuntide Championships should also encourage and augment the constant appeal for proper club structures similar to those in the 50s and 60s with the likes of Sporting Club, Town Rangers, St George’s Football Club, All Blacks, Atoms, Hurricanes, Dauntless, Green Street, Honved, Carenage, Queen’s Park Rangers and others.
A recent conversation with George “Goatie” Robinson revealed that the track and field clubs in the late 60s and 70s provided good competition over the three days the meet was held. Jet Stars, Striders, St John’s Sports, and Police were the major clubs and then there were teams representing the Eastern Division. Recent additions are Speed Zone, TrackBlazers, Ace, Western Jets, and Southern Pros.
The rebirth of the Whitsuntide Games should encourage the strengthening of these clubs, provide more competition and exposure for our potential athletes and support our sports tourism thrust.
There are possibilities and I can use the Cadet Corp as an indicator of the opportunities that our youths are seeking. Look at the end results after the decision was taken to revive Cadets in Grenada – at least 13 Secondary Schools have functioning units. That could be 13 track and field clubs waiting to spring into action and undiscovered talents waiting to bloom.
The required budget for this project is about US$700,000.00 and Government should see this as an investment in youth, sports and the nation’s future. The majority of this budget is for the Mondo Surface which is estimated at US$550,000.00; the Photo Finish costs US$15,590.00; the Electronic Scoreboard at US$70,000.00 and the Field Events Equipment at US$96,500.00.
Sometime ago, Mike Mc Quilkin shared with me some ideas he believed the authorities could undertake to raise funds for projects like these. Mr Mc Quilkin humbly suggested that specially marked bins should be placed at the Maurice  Bishop International Airport and the Cruise Terminal for visitors and nationals who are leaving the island and may want to donate extra currencies.
I support that idea and also suggest that the yacht club, commercial banks, main business centres and foreign embassies and missions be added as collection points. They will be tasked with the responsibility of providing a weekly update to the public through the Grenada Olympic Committee.
The Government could also encouraged Private Sector’s involvement by providing tax deductibles for those who are prepared to make substantial contributions toward the Fund.
Let’s keep our fingers crossed and allow good sense to prevail and the authorities put a plan in place to ensure that our athletes are given a world class facility to train and compete, and we can resume staging regional and international IAAF approved meets.
The loss of the use of our Stadium has affected the athletes, as the facility is no longer what it used to be, negatively impacting the progress of our athletic depth and range.
The proper management of any new facility will have to be a priority to ensure that track and field and football could maximise its use and not concerts and other non-sporting events.
But despite my repeated pleas for the refurbishment of the track and field stadium, I am confident that our sportsmen and women will have a first-class facility in the New Year. I am convinced on the basis that the sports ministry, under the leadership of Minister Patrick Simmons and ably supported by his team of experienced personnel including Permanent Secretary Veda Bruno-Victor, Director of Sports Conrad Francis and Co-ordinator of Youth Kevin Andall, has made significant progress within the last year and a half.
They are among the lowest paid divisional heads (category I) in the public service in Grenada but they are delivering, and hopefully, their determination will lead to the refurbishment of the stadium. I remain hopeful!
The National Sports Policy is in the waiting line for Parliamentary approval but segments of the policy have unfolded including the Parish Sports Councils, the lighting of playing fields and an adhoc sports tourism committee.
The timelines for completion of this project are essential since the track and field season begins in earnest in January, though some schools like perennial champion St David’s Catholic Secondary School begin theirs in September.

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