Tolerance, indifference, and the end of free rides
By Nigel McKenzie
“Tolerance is another word for indifference.” That quote, attributed to a British playwright, aptly describes what has now become a critical if not fatal flaw in our collective sporting conscience.
The Oxford English Dictionary defines tolerance as: “the ability to accept things one dislikes or disagrees with.” Indifference is basically having no interest.
Guyanese are legendary when it comes to tolerance, but there is arguably so much that the psyche can withstand before hopelessness reigns eternal. Thus, before despair overwhelms those of us who genuinely love this country and have an intense love for sports, it is imperative that I join my colleague, Rawle Welch, in roundly condemning that which threatens to not only do irreparable harm to our future in the sporting arena, but negate our relevance.
I can use the national cricket and football imbroglios for interminable references, but the lack of pride and purpose in our Olympic sojourns throughout the years will adequately suffice.
The token appearances at the world’s greatest sporting spectacle are no longer acceptable. No, it is not okay to wave our revered flag at Opening Ceremonies just because we have one. We don’t want to ever again see administrators and officials outnumbering our athletes, and parading with gadgets to capture images which will merely serve as proof of their extensive travels. We must also stop the upsetting trend of sending our athletes to be repeatedly embarrassed. In short, the absurd pretence must end…now!
We will no longer accept this unreserved selfishness by individuals who couldn’t care less if we are the laughing stock of the region. And it is apposite to mention this, because we often speak dismissively of “small islands” when we want to emphasise the significance of our country’s size, relative to how we “should not be spoken to”.
Yes, our country is indeed big enough to hold the rest of the Caribbean and more, but on the sporting stage we inexplicably stand as stunted and trampled grass among exotic palm trees. Woefully outclassed.
The images of our athletes haplessly trailing the competition have assumed nightmarish proportions. From this period onward, those in the know must step forward before we embark upon selections for major track and field meets and solidly reject the now worn-out notions of the necessity of just “having a presence”.
Our athletes should not be placed in embarrassing situations just to facilitate and fulfill the fancies of those whose aims and objectives have absolutely nothing to do with the pursuit of excellence or national pride.
I respect the heart and spirit of our athletes, but in the international sporting world where fierce ambition, aspiration, and the quest to beat and be the best is the order of the day, they will need to be considerably more accomplished to venture with optimism, if not expectation, into World Championships and Olympiads.
Consider this. The objective of any athlete is to win a medal. For some persons, it really matters not what type it is, because such achievement says that you are among the best in the world in that discipline. But there are limits, and there is stark reality. The point is we must only send our athletes when they are ready for the big time.
Can the 2012 Olympic team’s administration explain our attempt at glory in let’s say the men’s 400 metres, where our athlete’s personal best is said to be 45.86? Are these people serious?
The world record of 43.19 seconds is held by America’s Michael Johnson, as is the Olympic record (43.49), and the winner of this year’s event is a “small island” teenager (Grenadian Kirani James) no less, in a stunning time of 43.94…almost two seconds faster than our countryman’s very best.
To compound the dilemma, or enhance the point, our runner recorded a time one second slower (46.86) than his personal best (PB). So what do we have? Another of our numerous token appearances, of course. Maybe the athlete was overwhelmed by the magnitude of the occasion, but why put him in that position in the first place?
Let me add some noteworthy, and I daresay sobering perspective here. The athlete’s PB of 45.86 would not have even secured a bronze in the 1960 Games in Rome. In fact the last time there were 45 second-plus times recorded in a 400m final was 1964 in Tokyo. And the Polish bronze medallist ran 45.64.
Since then, the slowest time of a bronze medallist in 12 Olympiads was 44.95 in Montreal (1976).
There is so much more to analyze, but space would not permit this in one column. However, the Guyana Olympic Association and other such bodies locally can rest assured we are no longer just accepting things we dislike or disagree with, because we in the media are by no means indifferent.
The free ride is over!