Give it time …True professionalism in Jamaican sport will come eventually
MILLS...head honcho of Racers Track Grand Prix (Photo: Observer file)

THIS newspaper feels obliged to reiterate our congratulations to the Racers Track Club and its head coach, world-renowned Mr Glen Mills, for their courage and determination in hosting today's Racers Grand Prix, with some of the globe's top athletes lined up.

The event, which had its inaugural staging in 2016, had rapidly gained international acclaim before the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic led to a three-year shutdown.

Such is the difficulty and expense; Racers would've been readily forgiven had it decided to forego another year. That's especially against the backdrop of news that the meet is costing in the region of US$1 million.

Yet, they have pressed ahead for the greater good of Jamaican athletics. As Mr Mills is reported having said "We understand the economic challenge right now, coming out of the pandemic, but despite the difficulties we didn't want to allow inertia to stop us from doing anything …"

Also, as we said in this space just over a week ago, for organisers to have been able to attract so many world-leading athletes "speaks volumes" to the esteem and respect with which Jamaica and indeed the Racers Track Club are viewed by the global athletics fraternity.

Wet weather over recent days, which is also forecast for today, may well mean a smaller crowd than would normally be anticipated at the National Stadium.

Of course, from a revenue perspective a live audience is not as crucial as used to be the case decades ago. Today, there is much more reliance on television, streaming, and related audio/visual avenues.

Then again, a big live audience enhances the visual product — and as any competitor in sport will readily testify, a cheering, buzzing crowd spurs high-quality achievements.

"If you want great performances we need spectators out there," says Mr Zharnel Hughes, the Anguillan-born Racers Track Club sprinter who competes for Great Britain at the international level.

This brings us to the view voiced by Mr Mills that outside of the Boys' and Girls' Athletics Championships, Jamaicans are not as supportive of athletics as they should be, considering the fame and recognition the sport has brought to this country.

Quite correctly, Mr Mills references the "amateurish" environment of Jamaican track and field and the need for greater professionalism and, by extension, earning power. That can also be said for other sporting disciplines locally.

We note, also, his comment that football is far more popular in Jamaica than track athletics. That's true. But to be fair to Jamaicans, that's also true globally. The skills involved and its fast-paced nature mean that for most sports lovers, football is beyond comparison as a visual spectacle.

Regarding the popularity of Champs compared to other track and field events, we think it useful to consider overwhelming school loyalties as an aspect of Jamaican culture, and the extraordinary history of an amateur meet which dates back in excess of 100 years.

History, tradition and culture are central to human behaviour. Also, very little that is useful happens overnight.

Many, perhaps most, of us won't live to see it but in time, we expect, an overarching professional environment for Jamaican sport will become reality.

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