The New Democratic Party (NDP) is committed to the development of sports in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Our mission is to facilitate the emergence of a culture of sports through the elevation of sport as a significant pillar of national development.
The existing Sports Council Act was established by the NDP in recognition of the importance of sports to the human condition. In its original form, the Act addressed the need for institutional framework to oversee the appropriate maintenance of existing sports infrastructure and expansion to ensure future growth. The Act is in need of a comprehensive review to better meet the requirements of changing standards of international sports federations.
The intention of the NDP is to encourage the hosting of regional and international competitions for the following reasons: to provide regular competitions which will encourage excellence in athletes; to generate greater interest in competitive sport; to facilitate the growth and development of the sports tourism sector of the national economy; to provide opportunities for individuals and organizations to fashion and develop sports specific administrative, organizational, technical and service skills as employment options and to provide Vincentians with high level competition at home.
St. Vincent and the Grenadines had established itself as a force to be reckoned with in sports. We were regionally and world rated in football and in netball. We were producing West Indies cricketers. We were sending track and field athletes in increasing numbers on athletic scholarships and to international competitions. However, over the past eighteen years, our standing has declined drastically, as a result of neglect and lack of a proper vision for sports development. This is seen in the steady deterioration of playing facilities across the length and breadth of the island and the fading away of interest in various forms of organized sporting events.
For instance, in track and field, our athletes have been competing on surface that is not conducive for their development. When our athletes compete at the Inter-Primary and Secondary Schools’ Athletics Championships; they do so on grass. No national stadium and not a sign of an artificial track for our athletes to develop, so that they can acquire the skills necessary to compete for regional and international competitions. Undoubtedly, it is a lack of vision in sports development by the Unity Labour Party (ULP) regime; by failing to construct the national stadium and provide an artificial track for our athletes. For eighteen years, the ULP regime has promised to deliver a national stadium but the mere fact that after all these years, they cannot even find the boundaries of the national stadium site, is testimony to their incompetence and complete lack of interest in sports.
The promise of a national stadium was a ruse to win the votes of the youth and nothing more. As general elections approach, the ULP government has begun to make promises again. This time, they are promising an international standard athletics track. Let us not be fooled by the rhetoric of Dr. Ralph Gonsalves and Camillo Gonsalves. They have not delivered a stadium in eighteen years and will never deliver that which they have now promised. Our athletes deserve better and can be assured that the NDP is committed to the construction of a national stadium.
The NDP will also implement a framework for upgrading and management of sports facilities at the constituency and community level. An NDP government will implement a Service, Opportunity and Support framework, which will ensure that sporting facilities are upgraded to accommodate their respective sporting disciplines. Community Sport Councils will be developed and sustained and eagerly taking ownership of the maintenance of the established facilities and supporting the programmes for physical activity and sport in their respective communities. In addition, we will develop at least one playing field in each constituency to the extent that it can accommodate regionally organized sports. These facilities will be fully lit and will have stands and changing facilities. And develop projects to convert the surfaces of playing fields into artificial surfaces, particularly in areas where grass does not grow properly.
We are an island and water is a part of us and the sport of swimming should be at a much higher level at the competitive arena. As a result, the NDP will construct a National Aquatic Centre to attract national, regional and international competitions and to grow the sports locally. Meanwhile, the NDP congratulates the Swimming Association for the tremendous job it has been doing. Also, Sports will form part of the curricula within the schools from the primary level. Students will be taught sports as a discipline and skilled personnel will be employed to teach physical education.
Some of the other areas of development that the NDP will focus on include: the construction of a national indoor sports complex, floored with special sport flooring materials, to accommodate sports such as basketball, volleyball, netball, tennis and squash; provide sports scholarships to athletes who excel in their respective sporting discipline, to attend secondary school, college or university; implement a structure that ensures a proper foundation for youth development of elite athletes; provide effective system of sports medicine. Establish an institution that caters for athletes who have displayed the capacity to excel in their respective sporting disciplines; provide schooling within this institution; provide appropriate coaches to facilitate the enhancement of the athletes at the institution and develop a strong research and development component of this institution.
Further, we will ensure proper funding of sports for training and associated activities. A fixed percentage of funds from the National Lotteries Authority will be made available for sports development and funding will be provided to properly-constituted national sporting organizations coordinated through the Ministry of Sports.
The NDP recognizes the importance of sports to our athletes, our people and our country. And will work relentlessly to ensure that sports has a place of prominence on the development agenda.