By Edison Jefford
Guyanese athletes, who continue to compete and represent this country against all odds, deserve
much better than the shameless, shoddy treatment meted out to them at the façade that sadly was an Athletics Association of Guyana (AAG) Awards Ceremony.
The insipid ceremony was held last weekend at the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) Auditorium, Thomas Lands, without any pomp and fanfare, befitting a celebration of outstanding achievement in track and field.
To begin with, the venue spoke volumes of the lack of thought that goes into the treatment of the athletes. It suggested that the athletes do not deserve better than an auditorium decorated with the image of ornamental cloth and folding chairs.
Maybe the President of the AAG, Aubrey Hutson and his Executive do not pay attention to what obtains for award ceremonies in the region, which is usually a ‘red carpet’ event, held at upscale hotels or convention centres. After all, that is what athletes deserve after a year of immense, and most often priceless, sacrifice for their country.
Athletes are not just a group of itinerant individuals with nothing to do with their lives; they are Ambassadors and Diplomats, who ought to be treated as such. Because of this fact, the AAG’s Awards Ceremony should have been held at an appropriate venue.
There are many such venues to choose from, beginning with the Marriot Hotel. The AAG may
be inclined to cite a lack of sponsorship in being able to procure a more appropriate venue with the right décor, but this is why leadership is important.
If that was the problem, then it suggests that there is no corporate confidence in the leadership of the AAG; a simple meeting with the management of any high-end venue where a proposal could have been made to link the occasion to the venue’s marketing could have produced the venue for free or at a reduced rate.
This issue also exposes the limitations within the leadership of the association, which should pay attention to what obtains in Jamaica, for instance, for an Award Ceremony. It is a gala event that attracts the crème de le crème in the sport and of stakeholders.
The association, however, has no excuse because it is a recipient of two International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF) grants of US$15,000 and US$25,000 annually; that is $8,000,000 per annum. AAG also has access to Guyana Olympic Association (GOA) funds.
The occasion last weekend had the auspicious presence of Director of Sports, Christopher Jones and GOA President, K.A Juman Yassin. Apart from what was clearly an improper venue, the award to athletes must elevate from a mere trophy. It is time athletes receive financial, or other valuable prizes, whenever they are so recognised.
To escalate the disregard for the efforts of athletes, the association somehow forgot triple jumper, Troy Doris and sprint ace, Brenessa Thompson in the reckoning for Male and Female Athletes of the Year respectively. It was a disingenuous and egregious act that shows complete disrespect for the efforts of those two outstanding Guyanese athletes.
Doris was Guyana’s highest achieving athlete in 2016 when he reached the triple jump Final at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Doris placed seventh in the Final where he had Guyana being given prodigious prominence worldwide.
Thompson broke Guyana’s national 100m and 200m records on her way to qualifying for the Rio Games as a 20-year-old. The AAG did not even give these two athletes due consideration though they are based in the United States of America.
They are Guyanese athletes, who represent Guyana. The association cannot conveniently become aware of this fact when it wants the athletes to don the Golden Arrowhead at international events, and then forget about them at its Award Ceremony.
Hutson apologised for what he called a “serious oversight” in a News Room interview, which was posted on social media platform, Facebook. In the video, he denied having information on the performances of Thompson and Doris, though those were public knowledge that was published in the local media.
The thread on Facebook has received widespread condemnation from athletes, stakeholders and aficionados locally and overseas, including double Commonwealth medallist, Aliann Pompey, who said that she kept Hutson informed with the performances of the athletes.
It is this kind of treachery and use of ‘alternative facts’ that continue to undermine any real progress in the development of the sport from the perspective of the athletics association. The truth is not one of the characteristics of the association, which obviously questions its credibility.
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