Is Government Passing The Buck Over Commonwealth Youth Games?

It is often said that sports and politics don’t mix. Think again! They need to co-exist in a big way for Saint Lucia to host the 2017 Youth Commonwealth Games.

Minister for Youth Development and Sports, Shawn Edward (left) with Chief Executive Officer of the Commonwealth Games Federation, David Grevemberg.

Minister for Youth Development and Sports, Shawn Edward (left) with Chief Executive Officer of the Commonwealth Games Federation, David Grevemberg.

During his budget presentation prime minister Kenny Anthony spoke about the games but first underscored that it was the previous administration that had agreed to the hosting of the games. He said, however, that as leader of the opposition he had endorsed the decision. “Faced with some tough fiscal times,” the prime minister said, “we now have to decide whether we are capable of hosting the games or not.” He went on to say that the matter should be put before the public. If only the same could be said of all government decisions.

High on the agenda when 29 delegates from 21 member territories of the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) arrived in Saint Lucia over the weekend for a joint meeting of the Caribbean and Americas region, was Saint Lucia’s ability or inability to host the 2017 Commonwealth Youth Games.

The delegation that arrived here on Friday 22nd May attended a meeting at Coco Palm Resort in Rodney Bay on Saturday morning. During that session there were opening remarks first by Fortuna Belrose, President of the Saint Lucia Olympic Committee, followed by Regional Vice President of the Americas, Yassin Juman; Chief Executive Officer of the CGF, David Grevemberg; and Minister for Youth Development and Sports, Shawn Edward.

Before stating government’s position when it comes to hosting the Commonwealth Youth Games, Minister Edward portrayed Saint Lucia not only as a wedding and honeymoon destination but also as a sports oriented nation stating that in very recent times the government of Saint Lucia has invested very heavily in the development of sporting infrastructure. He said, “I was relieved when I walked in this morning to see on the programme we would be touring existing facilities, as well as the site for perhaps one of the biggest capital investments in sport infrastructure for the last 10 years and that is the site at Beausejour where we plan on constructing an Olympic size aquatic centre.”

That particular project is being funded by the Taiwanese.

Having said that, one would think government would stamp the seal of approval on Saint Lucia hosting the 2017 Commonwealth Youth Games. That was not the case! Edward was merely cushioning the blow before stating what many Saint Lucians already knew.

“Everybody in here knows that Saint Lucia was awarded the Commonwealth Youth Games some years ago,” said the minister. “Today we are in a situation where there is much discussion at the national level in terms of whether Saint Lucia is in a position to actually carry through and make good on the promise to the Commonwealth Games Federation that we will be able to host the games.”

The minister pointed out that he had met with Grevemberg and given him an insight as to what the mindset is within the sports fraternity with regard to our ability to host the games in 2017. He also mentioned that earlier Grevemberg had the opportunity to meet the Governor General and Acting Prime Minister, Phillip J Pierre who also gave their perspective on Saint Lucia hosting the games and the challenges that we face.

Minister Edward himself tried bringing the truth to light when it came to Saint Lucia hosting the games: “Let me say here, in all the sincerity that I can muster, that there are serious fiscal and financial challenges that confront our country. That notwithstanding, the government of Saint Lucia has not said no to hosting the Commonwealth Youth Games in 2017. What we have done as a collective cabinet, is that we have placed the matter in the public domain for discussion for suggestions.”

He went on to say: “I am hoping that discussion will also happen at this level. This is a panel of very distinguished sports administrators in the Commonwealth and of course the government of Saint Lucia is open to ideas and suggestions, as we move forward in an attempt to make a determination as it relates to whether we are able to or we can host the games.”

During a question and answer session, I asked Grevemberg whether he was encouraged or discouraged following remarks from the Minister for Youth Development and Sports. He replied: “I am encouraged by the responsibility the government has taken in terms of making sure these games are absolutely right for Saint Lucia, as well as the Commonwealth Sports Movement. These games are only delivered by partnership, whether it’s the Commonwealth Games proper or the Commonwealth Youth Games, so it is absolutely critical that both people and governments and, of course, all the partners that are supporting such games are pulling behind this venture or journey.”

He went on to say: “I respect absolutely the extenuating circumstances that the minister discussed. We look forward to working very closely with the Saint Lucia Commonwealth Games Association and the Saint Lucian government, to look at the feasibility and the overall programme of the youth games and to ensure it can be feasible for Saint Lucia to host.”

While in Saint Lucia the delegates had site visits to sporting facilities that included the Beausejour Cricket Ground, National Tennis Centre, site for the National Aquatic Centre, Beausejour Indoor Facility and the George Odlum Stadium which is still being used as a temporary hospital.

It is widely known that the George Odlum Stadium is in deplorable condition and would need millions to bring it up to scratch. It has also been reported that the stadium would need to be ready by 2016 to host at least one international meet ahead of the 2017 games, which seems very unrealistic at this time.

The clock is ticking for Saint Lucia and there is yet no word on how public consultation on the matter will take place.

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