Can the country maximise on CASI 2016 being on the calendar of events?

Last month, Caribbean Times carried an article entitled – ‘Sir Lester to Chair committee for CASI 2016’. This newspaper expressed its elation at that news for several important reasons, perhaps none more potent than the fact that sport and the sporting fraternity would yet again receive both national and regional recognition. It is a truism that increasingly, countries in the developing world are realising the significance of sport for national development. However, there many specific socio-cultural, socio-political, and socio-economic strategic objectives that can be achieved, which sometimes are left under-utilised.

In recent discussions with the veteran sports journalist and pioneer of the Caribbean Awards for Sports Icons (CASI), Al Hamilton, there appeared to be some antipathy regarding whether all hands are on deck regarding what ought to be a supreme event with broad mileage for several sectors of the Antigua and Barbuda economy and society. Reading through the lines, it did appear as though some reluctance is creeping into the effective organising and push that would be needed, if a successful awards ceremony is to materialise at a time capable of being drawn into the initiatives and activities accompanying part of the 35th year of National Independence celebrations in Antigua and Barbuda.

Caribbean Times knows all too well that sport as an industry is hardly ever given the spotlight that it ought to achieve. While spectators and supporters will jump when individuals and teams are successful, there is insufficient gusto for backing sportspersons in their quest to reach the top during the times that they will battle at the bottom rungs of the ladder. Worse is that coaches, managers, therapists, and other important cogs in the wheel making for success, are generally overlooked.

These are realities here in Antigua and Barbuda, and to some extent in several other Caribbean countries with the possible exception of Jamaica in relation to its treatment of track and field. These situations are also unfortunate because it suggests that there is an inherent undervaluing of the contributions of sports to societal building and binding, and to the financial inputs to the economy from sports at all levels. For instance, just imagine the sales that are achieved by vendors as spectators move around their stalls for food and drink while taking in a sport even at the village or community level.

The fact is, sport is a major contributor to national development and regardless of the particular sporting event, discipline is a central factor knitting together the training, skill enhancement, management, and the spectacle aspects that audiences view as leisure and entertainment. In other words, sport is indicative of social events, cultural and festive events, a tourism product, and it imbues a healthy lifestyle which has positive implications for a healthy nation.

Surely, to have a sports award ceremony being hosted in Antigua and Barbuda that acknowledges the achievements of regional sportspersons, coaches, and administrators from a cross-section of generations has to be a major plus. This, particularly if holding the award ceremony as a major event close enough to the celebrations constituting the 35th independence of the nation. There must be great potential, and if it is well-marketed and supported both locally and regionally should add to the claim that sporting endeavour remains one of the strongest social activities that narrows any divide among people while bringing people and nations closer in collaboration and cooperation.

Caribbean Times would want to encourage the Government of Antigua and Barbuda, and by extension the various entities that can add value to CASI’s efforts, to eliminate the clutter that can send mixed signals, and otherwise frustrate chances for further propelling and pushing the significance of sports to the body politic and the fortunes of the economy. Caribbean Times would hazard a guess, that should Antigua and Barbuda fail to maximise the opportunity and what it broadly offers, we may remain a decade from now asking the same questions that were asked 10 years ago in relation to our approach to sports.

While on this, Caribbean Times would recommend to the organisers that Calvin Greenaway receives a posthumous award for his outstanding thinking and actual contributions to sports in Antigua and Barbuda. We must consider the question: ‘Can the country maximise on CASI 2016 being on the calendar of events for independence celebrations?’ Can such an award ceremony take root in Antigua and Barbuda, becoming a regional spectacle filled with success and other positive possibilities?