As sport resumes locally, safety protocols must be followedSaturday, February 27, 2021
Sport, as we all know, lifts the spirit even in the gloomiest of times.
For that reason, Jamaicans stressed out by the continued scourge of COVID-19 are surely relieved at news that track and field competition is to resume with several meets across the country today, for senior and junior athletes, following the granting of Government permission earlier this week.
The drawback, of course, is that spectators will not be allowed. But as Jamaicans often say, it is better than nothing.
While horse racing resumed in mid-2020, Jamaicans will be aware that since the COVID-19 outbreak here in March of last year, sport, with the odd exception, has been shut down under Government's Disaster Risk Management Order.
Last year saw the scrapping of several competitions, including the popular Boys' and Girls' Athletic Championships, the National Athletic Championships, and a number of other senior track and field competitions. Since the start of 2021 as many as 13 senior and development track and field meets were scrapped.
The 2020 all-island school boy cricket competitions were shut down as they approached their final stages, and national senior cricket competitions abandoned. Indeed, the West Indies regional four-day competition was halted before its scheduled completion.
Just as an aside, Jamaica's senior national cricketers deserve praise for reaching the final four of the Super50 competition — which ends today in Antigua — despite the distinct disadvantage of only being able to train in small groups ahead of the tournament, even as their opponents in the wider Caribbean and Guyana were playing trials and other competitive games.
Last year, Jamaica's popular schoolboy football competitions were scrapped as were the national premier league, the super league and parish leagues. Only recently, an attempt at a football camp for senior footballers ended badly after being ruled in breach of the Disaster Risk Management Order.
Indeed all sport across the Jamaican landscape have suffered badly.
Against that depressing backdrop, we empathise with Jamaica's national discus champion Mr Fedrick Dacres who voiced his delight at today's track and field event organised by the Jamaica Athletics Administrative Association (JAAA) at the National Stadium.
“I personally just appreciate the chance to actually see track and field in the country again; it has been greatly missed. And I am not just speaking as an athlete, but also as a spectator,” Mr Dacres said.
As explained by president of the JAAA, Mr Garth Gayle, today's competition at the National Stadium is crucial for local-based athletes eyeing the Tokyo Olympic Games in midyear, and other high-level competition.
“In an Olympic year, our senior athletes' preparation is paramount. They are seeking to achieve qualification marks leading to possible team selection. This they will achieve through competitive trials, and the JAAA is cognisant and is providing these opportunities,” Mr Gayle said.
The big challenge will be to provide competition for athletes without compromising the COVID-19 safety protocols.
It's a point emphasised by Mr Reynaldo Walcott, meet director for the JAAA Trials for junior athletes at St Elizabeth Technical High School, today.
Mr Walcott told the Jamaica Observer that his planning committee had “worked tirelessly to ensure that [with] the permission that has been granted we will adhere strictly to the conditions...because the pandemic is not over”.
Well-thinking Jamaicans will be hoping all goes well.
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