By Rawle Welch
“It has to be more than just words. The time for action has long passed.The time for action is now” Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport, Olivia “Babsy” Grange announced in the Jamaica Parliament last month on the eve of the start of the Summer Olympics in Rio, Brazil.
She spoke of the positive impact of sport which according to her has helped reduce conflicts and disputes in communities, while also serving to stem deviant behaviour among youths as well as provide a source of wealth for others.
Grange’s experience and performance in her portfolio has allowed her to remain intact despite the change of government and is a perfect example of the confidence the new administration exhibited in retaining her for the office.
Grange, during her time in office as the Sports Minister, has undeniably performed outstandingly, especially to the benefit of sports development in the Caribbean nation and while some might be tempted to point to the cadre of superstar athletes that emerged during her tenure as a principal reason for her success, she deserves credit for some of the initiatives that she has implemented to highlight Brand Jamaica globally.
The enticement to highlight this woman’s achievements as someone who recognises the need and advocates for youth development was stirred by some pronouncements made by President of the Guyana Olympic Association (GOA) K. Juman Yassin during his reflection of Guyana’s performance, at the recently held Rio Games.
While Yassin’s declaration that more investment is needed to advance the development of sport locally is right on target to boost our chances of doing much better at international competitions, here is someone that has done little for too long and needs to stepdown so that new blood could emerge into what is regarded as a very important sport institution.
He can boast of no major success at any level, while his track record of support for sports development is mediocre at best.
In many other countries, such a wretched performance would not have survived one term much less the countless terms that he has governed.
Yassin’s lack of persuasive insight is glaring since he has been unable to convince several governments of the potential of sport to be a contributor to human and economic development, but seems content to lament every four years about the absence of adequate funding for our athletes.
It is clear that he is not getting the job done in convincing the political administrations of the importance of investing in sports development.
Yassin’s palpable failure as the country’s chief sports administrator should not continue under the guise of respective administrations not plugging sufficient money into sport.
He has presided over the GOA for in excess of two decades, a state of affairs that most of us might find pretty difficult to identify anywhere else in the world.
It is time that someone with the willingness to forge alliances with other member countries of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to secure expertise to enhance the abilities of our athletes be sought to replace him.
There have been a few attempts in the past that resulted in a few coaches coming here for short stints, but those visits have not translated into any sort of significant success.
The Government to its credit has displayed the inclination to act in relation to sports development, but it would be helpful if information pertaining to whether or not there is a clear vision for sports development in a specified timeframe is forthcoming.
The infusion of substantial monies for the refurbishment of the Cliff Anderson Sports Hall, the donation of floodlights at the Mackenzie Sports Club and financial assistance to associations and several touring contingents are all good signs, but is there a major plan in the pipeline that will transform our fortunes internationally.
The current administration must understand that real sports development could only be achieved by demonstrating its motivation to move away from the standard operations of the past.
Minister Nicolette Henry, who understandably is learning on the job, has so far preferred to manage in a low-keyed manner, but she will have to become more visible at every level, and by this I mean being part of teams travelling to international competitions and seizing every opportunity to form partnerships with counterparts across the world.
These actions are very important in building confidence in other stakeholders and athletes because it signals encouraging evidence of the Government’s seriousness in its quest to develop sports.
As stated above, “the time for action is now.”
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