Adrian Frater | Holness could rescue our sports

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October 27, 2018
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If our local politicians had a good record of being genuine, I would definitely be singing the praise of Prime Minister Andrew Holness today because I am totally in sync with his view that if the nation's sporting facilities got a major overall, we would be better able to attract major international sporting events.

While it is no secret that as a country, we are not blessed with an abundance of money to address all our major needs, to include adequate resources for health and education, I still believe that, based on what sport has done to enhance our image globally, it deserves much better treatment.

Outside of reggae legend Bob Marley and national hero Marcus Garvey, the best-known Jamaicans are our top-flight sporting icons, to include a long list of illustrious track stars, cricketers, footballers, and boxers. In fact, they have collectively made Jamaica the most powerful small nation in sports.

Over many years, I have been using this column to bemoan the fact that we are not doing enough to maximise our global standing as our achievement has been used more for show than real impact. One just needs to look at our lack of returns from being the first English-speaking Caribbean country to have qualified for the FIFA World Cup to realise it has not benefited much.

One just needs to look at the progress that Japan and Croatia, who made their World Cup debut alongside Jamaica in France '98, to realise that while they are now commanding much respect globally and have top-flight club leagues in their countries, we have basically just remained 'Caribbean bullies' with an archaic programme crying out for change.

Even in athletics, where we have been punching above our weight for many years, producing stars such as the iconic Usain Bolt and female greats Merlene Ottey, Veronica Campbell-Brown, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, and Elaine Thompson, we are probably rated highly among the countries with extremely poor infrastructure.

Trelawny, the parish that produced Bolt and Campbell-Brown, among other athletes who have served Jamaica with distinction over many years, does not have even a proper grass track, much less a synthetic running track. In fact, outside of the Montego Bay Sports Complex, which is fast taking on a 'mangy puppy' look, there is no other synthetic track outside of Kingston and St Catherine.

LOSING THE ADVANTAGE

While it is true that raw talent has served us well over the years, it is also true that with other nations now investing in new training techniques and utilising science to drive their programmes, the advantage we once enjoyed is now being eroded. So, unless we improve on what we have, especially with regard to facilities, our enviable 'best small' posture could go as well.

I believe that the prime minister is absolutely right in stating that we are missing out on key sports events, possibly in reference to the fact that we can't even host a leg of the IAAF Diamond League despite having so many stars on that circuit. The same could be said for football as unlike our Caribbean neighbours Trinidad and Tobago, we are not equipped to host a major championship.

As the prime minister rightly said, sports is a multibillion-dollar industry. However, while we have produced so many great global stars, we are not positioned to properly compete for even the crumbs, much less a slice of the cake. If Holness was to emerge as the man to put our sports on a sound footing, I believe that his legacy in sports would be cemented forever.

I have heard many promises from politicians over the years, and while a few of these promises have been kept, the vast majority of them have been just words without substance. I am sincerely hoping that Prime Minister Holness will be the man to break that cycle and finally give our sports the respect and recognition it deserves.

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