By Michael Bascombe
Track and field in the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) took a giant step last weekend with the staging of the revived OECS Track & Field Championship after a 23-year hiatus.
The last organised meet was held in St Lucia in 1991 and since then athletes and fans in the sub-region have been calling for the return of the championship.
The St Kitts and Nevis Amateur Athletic Association (SKNAAA), with support from the St Kitts and Nevis Olympic Committee (SKNOC) and other federations within the OECS must be commended for taking up the challenge even in the absence of a functioning OECS Sports Desk.
The Silver Jubilee Stadium hosted the weekend championship which attracted close to 100 athletes representing Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, British Virgin Islands, Dominica, Grenada, St Kitts and Nevis, St Lucia and St Vincent and the Grenadines.
While some of the elite athletes were missing, the two-day championship was competitive and there is potential for growth.
Congratulations to St Lucia on winning the 2014 championship!
This year’s event followed Invitational Meets held in Basseterre in 2012 and 2013 and the organisers should be encouraged by the available facilities in the islands.
This also brings into focus the OECS Sports Desk, which was set up “to promote a more complete development of the people of the region through the implementation of sports and physical education programmes.” It started operations on September 1, 1984, with Joseph “Reds” Perreira as its first co-ordinator.
However, since the departure of “Red” Perreira in 1997, after 13 years of service and subsequent attempts by Mike Ollivierre and David Peterkin, the Desk has been ineffective.
Denis James was appointed co-ordinator of the Sports Desk in September 1, 2009 but there has been no further information about this once vibrant unit of the Secretariat.
In fact, the last sporting article on the Secretariat’s website was created and dated September 7, 2009. The Sports Desk is no longer a unit of the Secretariat. The focus is now on education development, environment and sustainable development, competitive business, pharmaceutical procurement, statistics and data and trade policy.
We are aware of the challenges of intra-regional travel and sponsorship to stage sporting events especially within the OECS. But the Glenville Jeffers-led SKNAAA and Alphonso Bridgewater of SKNOC are in line for praise in hosting the revived track and field championship.
Track and Field were among the many events on the annual OECS sporting calendar during the 1980s and 1990s. Other sporting events included OECS Relays, 10k road race, half marathon, cycling, bridge, boxing, tennis, table tennis, netball, squash, golf and volleyball.
The sporting federations in the sub-region may have to follow the lead of track and field and organise their own championships in the absence of a functioning sports desk and the lack of concern especially by politicians who continue to give lip service to sports in the islands.
Congratulations to the organisers of the 2014 OECS Track and Field Championship and we look forward to the 2015 edition.