by Caribupdate Weekly
One of the most amazing weeks in the history of track and field in Grenada culminates this Saturday, 8 April. That’s when the country hosts the first Grenada Invitational and, what’s more, will confer the latest honour on Grenada’s most decorated and celebrated athlete, Kirani James.
As has become customary, the Secondary School Games’ Association’s INTERCOL meet, sponsored by Scotiabank, attracted large crowds and produced scintillating performances, including the toppling of records.
It is evident that the athletes’ preparatory work – including their schools’ inter-house sporting events and their participation in the Junior Championships of the Grenada Athletic Association (GAA) – paid dividends over the 3 days of exciting Intercol competition.
Many of the top performers, especially our young field athletes, are now preparing to leave the country for Curaçao, where the 2017 FLOW Carifta Games will be held 15–18 April.
As well, Grenada will be sending some of its best swimmers to the Bahamas for the 2017 Carifta Swimming Championships that also begin 15 April.
The Grenada Invitational is a privately organized event that has been endorsed by government and the GAA, and has been sanctioned by the IAAF – the International Association of Athletics Federations. The Invitational is an audacious venture for a country where the people generally are risk-averse and look askance at anything that is novel; and where projects often are not measured on their merits and potential benefits, but on which political party is likely to gain or lose, or which party forms the government of the day.
For us, at Caribupdate Weekly, we extend best wishes to the organizers of the Grenada Invitational, and offer a warm welcome to the many world-class athletes – from near and far – and the hundreds of visitors, who are here for Saturday’s international track and field meet at the National Stadium.
Apart from the immediate economic spinoff that the event will certainly generate, a well-executed and successful meet will most definitely open the door for Grenada’s hosting of more international track and field meets.
This newspaper also is delighted that future track and field events will be held at an arena that forever will be known as the Kirani James Athletic Stadium. The renaming of the stadium, in honour of James, will be done on Saturday during the Grenada Invitational.
Grenada – before and after independence in 1974 – has produced many brilliant sportsmen and sportswomen; we truly have. But, none has come close to matching James as an international athlete, both in terms of victories and consistency.
The 24-year-old from Gouyave, St John, has competed successfully around the globe and has claimed gold in the 400-meters at the World Championships. Among his other titles are gold and silver medals at the Olympic Games; and gold at the Commonwealth Games, Carifta Games, World Junior Championships and World Youth Championships.
The first major local meet at the newly renamed Kirani James Stadium will be the revived Whitsuntide Games, which the GAA has scheduled for 3 and 4 June. As we said in an editorial in January, and now repeat, if Whitsuntide is able to attract top caliber regional athletes as it did in former years, it would do a wealth of good for Grenada and our track and field talent.
Fans of track and field also can look forward to stiff competition at the National Senior Championships on 17 and 18 June; and the OECS Championships on 1 July.
But, for now; for this weekend, for this Saturday, 8 April, Grenada is veritably the centre of the athletic world. Tickets to the Grenada Invitational, we are told, are sold out.
We hope that with each event this track season – including the Invitational on Saturday – local organizing committee members and representatives of clubs, the GAA, the Grenada Secondary School Games’ Association, and Grenada Olympic Committee will engage in diligent post-mortem, will consider feedback and recommendations, and examine ways of taking local track and field to an even higher level.
For example, former Senator Arley Gill, who writes a regular commentary for Caribupdate Weekly, has recommended that opening of Intercol should be moved to a Friday evening. “The finals of events,’’ he has suggested, “should be held late evening, when the temperature is more conducive for top performances. I understand the concern with the young people and the potential for wrongdoings; but the change of time – to the evening and after working hours – will allow parents and/or guardians to be present at the National Stadium’’.
We also agree with Mr Gill that there ought to be increased sponsorship for Intercol; not just for the event itself, but also for the schools, to assist student-athletes with equipment, nutrition and training.
And, as he puts it, “once we settle on the right days and time of day for the events, along with proper production and adequate sponsorship, live regional coverage of the games should be pursued. This will give our athletes and the track program a regional platform.”