Whither the violence associated with 'Champs'

Saturday, March 24, 2012

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We suggested in this space last week that the Inter-Secondary Schools Sports Association (ISSA) could provide valuable guidance for others in terms of basic organisation, marketing and promotional strategies. We based this on its ability to command corporate sponsorship support amounting to $45 million in these harsh economic times for next week's 102nd ISSA/GraceKennedy Boys' and Girls' Athletics Championships at the National Stadium.

GraceKennedy is responsible for injecting $25.7m, LIME $7m, CVM-TV $7m and Puma $4.4m into 'Champs', and with the enormous success and mass appeal associated with the event, the sponsors, we believe, are of the view that it is money well spent. We agree.

We should also point out the ever-increasing television coverage for 'Champs', which this year will be beamed live to 24 other Caribbean countries by cable network SportsMax. Also, fans anywhere in the world will be able to watch 'Champs' online via SportsMax, through live Internet streaming.

Added to that, applications have been made for press accreditation by the BBC, CBC and CTV from Canada, CNN, media organisations from Germany, France, Switzerland and ethnic North America.

This year marks a very important time in our nation's history. Not only is it our 50th anniversary of Independence, but from a sporting perspective, it marks the return to the London Olympics; with possibly our best ever core of athletes hoping to better the all-time haul of 11 medals (six gold, three silver and two bronze) at the Beijing Olympics four years ago.

Jamaica's present standing in international athletics and its top athletes such as Messrs Usain Bolt, Yohan Blake, and Asafa Powell, Mrs Veronica Campbell Brown, Mrs Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, Ms Melaine Walker and others cannot be denied as we examine ISSA's success in raising corporate support.

But we believe that there's more to ISSA than just its ability to market, organise and promote 'Champs'. Over the years, we have seen signs of fortitude and a willingness to effect changes, even if it made them unpopular.

Earlier this week, SSP Derrick Knight announced that the police would be "lifting the ban" on After-Champs parties because their hard work to reduce the upsurge in violence among rival schools at the event some years ago was paying dividends.

For those who might have forgotten, about four years ago there was a spike in violence among rival schools participating in the athletics competition, which got worse with each passing year, thus forcing the police in 2010 to ban all marches, motorcades and fetes associated with the annual event.

At the time, Assistant Commissioner of Police Glenmore Hinds said the security forces would be pulling out all the stops to ensure that law and order are maintained.

Police from the Community Safety and Security Branch, the arm of the constabulary with responsibility for deploying School Resource Officers, had reported an alarming spike in criminal acts committed by students in the weeks leading up to 'Champs'.

The crimes include possession of firearms and assorted ammunition, unlawful wounding, gang activity, possession of offensive weapons, possession of ganja and chillum pipes, extortion, child abuse, the use of indecent language, gambling and loitering before and after school.

We are extremely happy with the leadership of ISSA, in partnership with the police high command and the student body, to halt the criminal acts that threatened to destroy the nation.

Many fruitful hours were spent in devotions, church services and meetings to educate the student population in getting to this stage where we are all feeling a lot safer to use the streets of the Corporate Area during this time of year. Let's hope we have seen the back of that scourge.




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