Adrian Frater | Lamenting the bad treatment of MoBay’s stadium
The all-weather track at the Montego Bay Sports Complex, in St James, did not fall into a state of disrepair overnight and I must say that to the credit of sports journalists in western Jamaica, the steady deterioration of the track has been the subject of many articles, seeking to draw the attention of the authorities to the situation.
Unfortunately, the messages in the various articles were either unfortunately missed or deliberately ignored because today, the much-needed track has deteriorated so badly that it had to be taken out of service because of the fear that its continued use could result in athletes sustaining career-threatening injuries.
With the track now out of use, the western region will lose its most prestigious track and field event, the annual Milo Western Relays. The event has been shifted to the GC Foster School of Physical Education, in St Catherine, because while the western region is an established nursery for top-flight athletes, the Montego Bay track is the only synthetic track in the entire region.
Like the scores of track and field fans in the west, who have been turning out in large numbers year after year to get their once-in-a-year opportunity to see the nation’s top athletes on show in the much-loved Milo Relays, I am extremely disappointed that we won’t be able to see these stars in our backyard this year.
While it is probably not their primary responsibility, I believe the leadership of the Jamaica Athletics Administrative Association (JAAA) is probably as guilty as the Ministry of Sports for standing by and allowing the track to deteriorate to its current state of uselessness, knowing the phenomenal impact the western region has been having on the nation’s athletics.
While Kingston and central Jamaica have produced a number of top-flight track stars, especially the youngsters who regularly come to the fore at the annual ‘Boys and Girls’ Champs,’ when it comes to producing real iconic stars, the west is indisputably the best, having produced legends such as the great Usain Bolt, Merlene Ottey, and Veronica Campbell-Brown.
Personally, I believe this unfortunate situation with the track at the Montego Bay Stadium amounts to an insult to the good work of persons like Ray Harvey, the driving force behind the Milo Western Relays; Albert Ferguson, the conceptualiser of the JPS Western Primary School Athletics Championship; and the many coaches and track officials, who have collectively been pushing the development of the sport.
I am hoping that, despite missing an opportunity to showcase their brand and services in the west as a result of losing the advertising platform the Milo Relays has been creating year after year, sponsors like Nestle, the financial backers of the Western Relays; and JPS, which has been bankrolling the primary school championship, will stay with us until the track is reinstated to full use.
While I have no over-riding reasons to doubt the sincerity of Sports Minister Olivia Babsy Grange, I hope the announcement that the track at the Montego Bay Stadium will be repaired this year will be more than just a promise. As a city that continues to generate so much to the nation’s economy through tourism, I believe we definitely deserve more than the token attention we have been getting from the Government.
We can’t allow the repair of the stadium track to go the route of the promised Usain Bolt Stadium, which has been an embarrassment, especially since there are no other monuments in the region to properly immortalise the glowing achievement of the iconic superstar. We want the stadium up and running to create opportunities for the many youngsters who probably would like to walk in Bolt’s footsteps.
I am hoping that despite being forced to leave their comfort zone, which the Montego Bay Stadium has become since Venezuela gave it to us as a gift. I hope Ray Harvey and his Milo Western Relay organising team will enjoy much success in St Catherine, which would probably go a long way in easing some of their disappointment of having to leave the west to stage the event at its usual high standard.