How to meet infrastructure needs in sport?
In central Jamaica, long-serving sports administrator and former president of the Jamaica Administrative Athletics Association (JAAAs) Mr Pat Anderson recently called for an all-weather track at the Kirkvine Sports Club in central Manchester.
Then earlier this week came talk from the west of the urgent need to replace the worn 15-year-old all-weather Mondo track at Montego Bay Sports Club.
We are told that Member of Parliament for St James West Central Mrs Marlene Malahoo Forte has pledged to lobby the Government to that end.
The MP is reported to have said that the track “has done its lifespan”.
We can expect an acceleration of such calls from across the country, not just for all-weather tracks but indeed for sports facilities generally.
Many thousands of young people who should be playing organised sport are not doing so because of a scarcity of facilities of every description.
Given the circumstances it’s a wonder that Jamaican sportsmen and women have done as well as they have.
At the youth level, schools have been exceptional in helping their student athletes to excel, despite having very little in the way of basic infrastructure. Superstar Mr Usain Bolt – himself the product of a resource-scarce school, William Knibb High – marvelled at the situation recently.
“I would never think that these big schools, which have done so well in track down the years, never had a gym facility,” Mr Bolt told journalists while witnessing the handover of gym equipment to St Elizabeth Technical High School (STETHS) by telecoms company Digicel.
We recognise that in Kingston there has been some improvement over recent years in the provision of modern track facilities through public and private sector support. But the country-wide need continues to grow.
To complicate matters, the National Stadium in Kingston is more than 50 years old and serious thought must be given to replacing it. That’s no easy task. Back in 2010, the cost of such a project was placed at US$300 million. Back then, Ms Olivia Grange, also serving as sports minister at that time, suggested public-private partnership could be the answer.
It seems obvious that not just in terms of the National Stadium but for all those badly needed sports facilities throughout the country, the public-private formula will have to be the way out.
We know for sure that the Jamaican Government will not have the money for now or for many years to come to get anywhere close to meeting demand. And while wealthy international bodies such as the IAAF and FIFA can help, ways must be found to attract the local business sector to play lead roles.
Could attractive branding arrangements with corporate companies be part of the solution? It seems to this newspaper that all possible avenues should be explored to build out sporting facilities and maximise Jamaica’s sports potential. Where there is a will, there is a way.