It is with dismay that I read a report purporting to carry Mr Mike Fennel's major views on the way forward for both “popular'” and “non-traditional” sports in Jamaica. I am strongly against his ideas, and if this is a sample of the thinking of our leading sports administrators, we may well be back to being grateful for a sprinkling of bronze and a gold medal here and there in very little time.
Jamaica has just broken into the big time in athletics. Even the blessed 1-2-3 in the 200m is neither sacred nor unusual. US teams have done this six times already – before we did it. Our real ace, come right down to it, is Bolt, and when he retires, which can be any time, we'll have largely “Shot our Bolt”, figuratively, so to speak.
The aforesaid “sprinkling” was what we were used to before Beijing. We now need to launch a comprehensive development programme to replace the current stars who have, at most, one more Olympics, with winning prospects. We must locate more Bolts, Blakes, Shelly-Anns, VCBs and so on, pronto. Budget and sponsorhips must be the watchword.
The foregoing is just a reality check amid all the euphoria, of which I was a prime suspect myself. The first thing I disagree with is Mr Fennel's idea of another Caribbean athletics Games. We cannot afford this. James' win and that of the Bahamas relay team, though noteworthy, are not sufficient to carry this idea, but maybe governments of the region have hidden resources of which I am unaware.
However, Mr Fennel goes on to say we should lobby the British for help in funding and coaching assistance for “nontraditional” sports which reportedly include boxing and tennis. This is bunkum. The winning formula in all Jamaican sports is to identify locally based coaching expertise a la Mills and Francis and let them unearth the talents, plus bringing these sports in the school system. The British are no better than us in the sports actually mentioned. Why not engage Mike McCallum and a Chinese coach for table tennis? The British have a £125-million fund per annum for their sports programme, and if they want to volunteer some of that to their friends in the Caribbean without onerous strings, I would thank them. However, a republic with an executive president is not negotiable.
I hope that by non-traditional sports Mr Fennel does not mean to include sports for which there is no popular support in Jamaica, such as equestrian events, and bob sleigh.
We must stand as a proud people who are determined to give meat to the bare bones of the national motto. Then watch Jamaica take off in sports, the economy, and even futbol.