It would appear the current recession has so affected the 2014 Senior Games that it has slipped into a comatose state –– based on the quality of the games and number of spectators this year.
Fewer than 1,000 patrons attended the games on the first day Saturday and fewer than 200 the Sunday after. When the complimentary passes are deducted from those numbers, the count of patrons would have been much less than that projected by the media.
This is a far cry from past years when thousands flocked to the National Stadium to witness the games; but, of course, there was no entrance fee then to attend. A number of factors could have been the reason for the rapid decline of the games; such as, the games have become too competitive and the fun element taken out.
This year, the organizers wanted to have zonal eliminations, and that in itself was a disastrous decision. In the end that decision had to be scrapped as the numbers just were not there to follow through on what was a very poor decision by the organizers.
It is my belief the $10 entrance fee was the main deterrent. A family of six would have to pay $60 to gain entrance, and would still have to purchase food and, in some cases, pay bus fares to and fro, and in these hard economic times one would have had to weigh that against one’s other priorities.
The decision to hold the games over a two-day period was another blunder; and if it was done to make the games run smoother, it certainly did not achieve that objective. A number of events were eliminated from the games, and the first running event, the 1,500 metres, started 55 minutes behind schedule and that was the order of the day throughout the games.
It was stated on the airwaves that an entourage of 41 athletes and officials were coming from Utah to compete, and as it turned out, only nine people turned up: seven athletes and two officials. What is amazing is that they and their local counterparts were hosted by Prime Minister Freundel Stuart at a reception at Ilaro Court.
I do not aware the other senior athletes from Trinidad and St Vincent were in attendance and accorded the same welcome to Barbados. It would be interesting to know if the state, or the organizers of the games, paid for this function, as a number of athletes did not get shirts in their packets, to identify them with their zone team, implemented for this year’s games.
The country is currently going through some serious economic times, with workers been laid off from their jobs and the unemployment numbers swelling daily. The union has been threatening to shut down the country because of the stringent measures that the Government has to take in the laying off workers. It is my understanding Barbados has committed to sending a team to Utah this year.
I have questioned before why Barbados has to send a team every year to a meet that is not rated in the top ten senior track meets in America. Yes, it is one of the meets used as a qualifier for the World Senior Games held every two years, but there are meets closer to home that one can qualify at,
What is amazing is that Barbados sends a team every year to Utah, and has never sent one single athlete to any of the three prestigious World Senior Games.
There are five outstanding senior athletes in Ainsley Lovell, Shirley Harper, Pearl Yearwood, Mark Norville and Anderson Sealy whose times in their events are rated among the world’s top ten athletes. These five athletes are the ones, if the Government wanted to send a senior team overseas to represent the country and to put Barbados on the map, who could bring glory to Barbados!
When the Senior Games first started, it was one of the best things to happen to this country in terms of bringing awareness to the elderly in terms of their health and the importance of keeping fit. Over the past few years, the games have been diminishing in terms of attendance, number of athletes competing and the fun element of the meet taken out.
What the organizers need to do is to highlight those people who compete and the significant number of them who where able to overcome their physical challenges through training and taking part in the games. They are a number people who when they first started taking part in the games could barely walk and through persistence training and preparation to participate were able to deal with and even overcome some severe life-threatening illnesses in some cases.
I think this is what the focus of the Senior Games should be: healthy living through fitness and dieting. The money being spent to send athletes to Utah could better be used to improve the local games, since the local games appeal to the masses and not just a selected few.
This year’s games were the 13th in a row, and they are still marred by countless technical flaws. I have stated before, the politics needs to be taken out. The games can stay under the relevant ministry, but another entity, like the Barbados Amateur Athletic Association, should be allowed to organize and execute the games, since it has all the requisite personnel in place.
–– WAYNE CADOGAN