Games over, time to work

Local fans cheer athletes on the final day of the Commonwealth Youth Games, Hasely Crawford Stadium, Port of Spain on August 10. - ANGELO MARCELLE
Local fans cheer athletes on the final day of the Commonwealth Youth Games, Hasely Crawford Stadium, Port of Spain on August 10. - ANGELO MARCELLE

THE EDITOR: For those who may have missed it because of the election gamesmanship, there were other games in town. Trinidad and Tobago successfully hosted the 7th Commonwealth Youth Games between August 4 and 11.

It was an event years in the making and I want to congratulate the TT Olympic Committee (TTOC), the Local Organising Committee (LOC), the Tobago House of Assembly (THA), the Ministry of Sport and Community Development (MSCD) and the Government for a wonderful and well executed event.

Research has shown that hosting international youth sporting events is not always viewed favourably. The participants (youth under 18) and their supporters (immediate family, ie, parents) do not always possess the disposable income to truly engage with the community. They operate on a very tight budget with most things prepaid and therefore, their direct economic impact to the man on the street is extremely limited.

But the world is rapidly changing and so too the notion of direct economic impact. Fourteen-18-year-olds do not only operate in the currency of dollars and cents, but the currency of influence through social media. This age group understands that one successful viral post is worth its weight in gold to individuals and businesses alike and that is what they brought.

Therefore, what the tourism and government agencies failed to do in years, 1,000 plus athletes and para-athletes between the ages of 14 and 18 managed to do in weeks. The youth gave TT an elevated exposure in a positive way. Daily, thousands of reels, live streams, TikToks, hashtags and photos came from the games, flooding the digital landscape.

All those reels, live streams, TikToks, hashtags and photos praised the beauty, tranquility, joy, togetherness, happiness and peace of the people and place known as TT. Even as the election games were on going, there were no pictures and sound bites of crime, race baiting, 'matics, politics and division. The eyes of the babes and sucklings focused on us as a people. Our excitement, local attractions, landmarks and cultural sites. They painted our country as a utopia that would encourage others to visit and themselves to return.

The games were also a success for another reason, the sports and facilities. TT won 15 medals, ranked seventh on the final medal table and was the highest-ranked Caribbean country. In terms of medals, this a 300 per cent improvement from the 2017 edition of the games. In that year we won five medals and ranked 13th, which was the second-highest of all the Caribbean countries.

Additionally, during the 2023 Games we were able to see firsthand the speed in which some facilities could be completed, a Chief Secretary welcoming barrels of sand while he was on Facebook live, and several rising stars in our National Aquatic Centre.

Much has already been said and highlighted about Nikoli Blackman and others. Their successes can easily make the passive observer excited about our sporting future and lull us into a fall sense of security.

However, beyond the exhilaration of hosting the games lies the real challenge. While it is almost impossible to achieve the picturesque utopia set out by the youth in social media, it is possible to build on the sporting successes of the games. The enthusiasm sparked by the event should be transformed into a lasting flame of interest in sports and well-being.

As a result, I am encouraging those who were architects of the one-off event to now focus on consistency and long-term athlete development. This should include emphasis on the difficult transition from junior sport to senior sport. Initiatives should prioritise the development of local talent, support of sporting academies such as those at the University of TT and UWI and access to sporting scholarships that can empower young athletes to refine their skills.

Those recommendations are not groundbreaking, yet they require meticulous planning, strategic focus and determined execution. The games have demonstrated short-term success; the real test now lies in fostering long-term growth.

As the echoes of the Commonwealth Youth Games fade, it's time to embark on the journey of consistent progress and sustained athletic excellence. The games are over, it is time to work.


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"Games over, time to work"

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