Dec 02, 2011 Sports
As I had committed to in an initial missive on some Facts about the National Schools’ Cycling, Swimming and Track and Field Championships, I intend to culminate with a comparison of the Jamaican Inter-Secondary Schools Boys and Girls Championships.
The Jamaican event was mentioned comparatively with Guyana’s in an item that had appeared in the Kaieteur Sport earlier this week with the writer emphatically stating that the local event will never attain the standards of the Jamaican competition.
But what has made the Jamaican contest a global spectacle that continues to produce outstanding athletes? We did not learn that in the earlier piece, so, it is only fitting that for the sake of general enlightenment, I develop the points my colleague attempted this week.
Let us mould our foundation first, since it would be a faulty premise to arrive with some facts in the New Millennium without building from history. The Jamaican Inter-Secondary Schools Boys and Girls Championships commonly called ‘Champs’ began in 1910-it is an event with 101 years of history. Our National Schools’ Championships called ‘Nationals’ began 51 years ago.
The first observation is obvious: ‘Champs’ has a deeper history than ‘Nationals’. The history of both events is necessary in assessing the length of time officials responsible for the management of the events had before perfecting the respective competitions. Though ‘Champs’ have been in existence for a 101 years and produced champions like Donald Quarrie in the 70s, The Observer reported that it only became prominent after the 2008 Olympic Games.
“It is an event with 100 years of history… but it is only since the advent of Usain Bolt, and his achievements in Beijing (China) last summer that the rest of the world has begun to sit up and take notice,” The Observer’s, Anna Kessel wrote two years ago.
Guyana’s ‘Nationals’ have not yet produced anyone of the calibre of Quarrie (and I stand very corrected on this point because we have had a host of athletes with similar abilities that varying issues such as lack of facilities prevented from reaching their full potential) or Bolt, but we have not yet owned a synthetic facility either. Jamaica has had one for decades now.
But to the point exactly, ‘Champs’ have only attained regional, and international, acclaim in the New Millennium. Suffice it to say that it has taken the Management of ‘Champs’, which is now the Inter-Secondary School Association (ISSA) 90 years to perfect the potential of the event as a product.
Comparatively, ‘Nationals’ has only been functioning with a Management Committee for about four years. This committee’s purpose is to bring the event to the regional and international level of what obtains in Jamaica. It has only been working for four years. As I wrote before, this is not intended to be an excuse since the issues of ‘Nationals’ are well documented in the print and the electronic press. It is merely meant to highlight important facts that were inexcusably missing in the attempted critique of ‘Nationals’ earlier this week.
After setting what is a reasonable foundation in context of editorial space, it is only fitting that this missive continue with some other facts that are necessary to further highlight the vast disparity that comparatively exists between ‘Champs’ and ‘Nationals’. I will introduce spectator and corporate support.
The tourism and other benefits derived from having produced prominent athletes such as Bolt and Shelly-Ann Fraser have given rise to the anticipation of creating more of such champions because the Jamaican economy benefits. Because of this fact, Jamaica is always awaiting the next ‘big thing’ in track and field.
“The first time I competed I was 13 and really nervous. There were 30,000 people screaming and cheering…” British High Jumper, Germaine Mason, who grew up competing in Jamaica, told the media three years ago in an interview. Our National School Championships is yet to get that kind of support from spectators for various reasons.
One of the primary factors is the fact that, as was said before, we have not gotten a champion of the international acclaim of Quarrie, Bolt and Fraser to-date. This is, as I indicated before, an all-weather synthetic facility is still unavailable to our young athletes.
If you add the $30,000 spectators, hundreds of scouts from global colleges and the obvious talent of athletes, you will get a product that is now reaching its maximum potential in Jamaica. On the other hand, Guyana’s version only started to implement marketing and other facets to produce an international product, four years ago. ‘Nationals’ was running on auto-pilot before.
In conclusion, there is one more aspect that I would like to develop. ‘Champs’ cost around $22m Jamaican dollars to administer annually, with the money coming from the corporate community, and unhindered from the Government. In other words, ‘Champs’ has no issues with funding, and contrary to other beliefs, it has had its issues with administration; a few years ago, officials were forced to cancel the 100m event because of registration issues.
But on the subject of funding, it should be known that this year ‘Nationals’ has moved in the direction of securing funding for a period beyond one year with the signing of a three-year deal with telecommunication giants, Digicel. The overall point is that it is not only unfair to compare ‘Champs’ to ‘Nationals’, it is also disservice based on obvious facts.
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