by Arley Gill
The Grenada Invitational track and field meet to be held on 8 April 2017, at the National Athletic Stadium — soon to be renamed the Kirani James Stadium — is a landmark event for the Tri-island State, at several levels.
First of all, it is the most significant sports tourism product to be undertaken by the government and people of Grenada. True, Grenada hosted a few games during the 2007 Cricket World Cup; but, it did so as only one of several islands in the Caribbean. In that cricket undertaking, it was struggling for attention. In the case of the Grenada Invitational, our country stands out and stands alone. All eyes are on Grenada.
Competing in St George’s will be internationally renowned athletes, who will be accompanied by their management teams; and there will be regional and international press. Grenada stands in pole position to get some favourable marketing throughout the world. And, if good performances are recorded and the hospitality is flawless, we can have many more ‘big’ named athletes in the future. However, we must not lose sight of the enormous marketing potential there is for the country at this inaugural track and field event.
To me, this event is the most significant honour we can give to Kirani James, a gold and silver Olympic medalist; our only Olympic medalist thus far in our history. Apart from the naming of the roadways, the stadium and whatever else, producing such an event may very well be the platform for ensuring that Kirani — whilst being the first — is not the last Olympic gold medalist from Grenada. It’s is the greatest tribute we can pay to his legacy.
The event does not have to be named after Kirani. He is the inspiration, he is the flame, that lights our soul with excellence on the track, and for us to see him live on home soil compete against world-class athletes must warm his heart.
I am sure that the local athletes who will compete, and share the stage with Kirani and the other world-class athletes, should find the inspiration to aspire to be great one day.
This should be good inspiration as well for the Grenada Secondary School Games’ Association, headed by Presentation Brothers’ College (PBC) Principal Dominic Jeremiah, to see our intercollegiate meet as more than a meet, where athletes from different schools compete. It must be seen as the nursery for producing top-notch global athletes. I am satisfied that our coaches are getting there; now, we need the nutrition, the best equipment and all the world-class ingredients to make our athletes a success.
Scotiabank, as a sponsor, has held the fort well. However, we may be in need of other major commercial partners to provide the schools themselves with modern gymnasiums and other equipment.
The time of day for our athletes to perform at their best must also be considered. I have written elsewhere that I am of the considered view that the final events of Intercol — now 3 days this year — should be moved to late evenings rather than at high noon. I would not endeavour to rehash the arguments here.
The Grenada Invitational organisers and officials, with their CARIFTA experience, should be able to once again learn and to ply their trade at the highest level. I am not aware on whether or not officials will be invited from outside of Grenada; but, it is a good opportunity to do so. Our local officials can only benefit.
Commentary of the games should not be left to chance. I hope we can invite some of the more accomplished and knowledgeable regional commentators to do the job. That aspect let us down badly at last year’s CARIFTA. Here, again, it is not a slight on our local boys and girls; but, it must be seen as an opportunity to learn from others who have been doing it at this level for years. We must be world-class in every aspect. That’s the goal.
Now, I don’t know the budget of the organisers.
However, we can consider making the first weekend in April every year as belonging to Grenada. We once had excellent long and middle distance athletes. Can we consider having an international invitational half-marathon or 10K on that Sunday, with the top regional athletes and a few Kenyans, even Mo Farah, before he retires?
Clearly, sports in the Caribbean is incomplete without a little music and dance. There is indeed scope for some of that at the Grenada Invitational. Smile!
In the meantime, let us give our support to a world-class event, with world-class athletes at a world-class facility.