Dahlia Walker-Huntington | Traffic tragedy for Champs
Born and raised in Jamaica, I migrated to Florida in 1979 when I was 18 years old. During my high-school years at Alpha Academy in Kingston, my parents never allowed me to attend Champs. Truth be told, I had very traditional parents and my social life was not very active.
Although I am regularly in Jamaica during Champs, my first time attending was the final day of the 2017 edition. I tried to attend on Friday, March 31, but was unsuccessful because simply I couldn't get to the National Stadium.
All roadways in the New Kingston area were clogged. From Trafalgar Road, Old Hope Road, Tom Redcam Avenue, Mountain View - north and south - and all roads in-between, traffic was horrendous. Missing, except for two intersections at Old Hope Road and Stanton Terrace, and Roosevelt Avenue and Stanton Terrace, was any attempt at regulating traffic by the police, so patrons of Champs and all users of the road could go about their business.
Lights would change to green several times and no one could move because other drivers ran the red light and blocked intersections. No side streets or short cuts were moving. The two intersections that had police personnel were no better because the cops were on their cell phones and paid no attention to the motorists trying to get to the National Stadium or about their daily business. Clearly, their mere presence was no deterrent, as the same undisciplined driving was taking place in front of their faces and behind their backs.
When I finally made it after driving for an hour from New Kingston to Mountain View Avenue and Tucker Avenue at 4 p.m. on Friday, my excitement was short-lived. The right turn to take motorists to the stadium parking lot was barricaded and police were unceremoniously waving drivers away without any direction as to alternative access to parking.
Going around through Vineyard Town back up to Arthur Wint Drive didn't help either, so I gave up and went and watched the games on TV. Persons who did spend hours trying to get into the venue also had to spend hours leaving on Friday night when the games were over. Numerous people had to park on the street and be harassed by people hounding them to be paid to 'watch' their cars.
The blunt observations are:
Why didn't the organisers of this massive event see it fit to:
1) have the necessary traffic control in place?
2) give clear directions at the venue as to where patrons should park; and
3) make provisions for overflow parking and shuttling of persons to the stadium?
As it was evident on Saturday when I went to the event, the attendees at Champs are largely the alumni, and a significant number of whom were from the diaspora who journey home every year to connect with their roots and for many to relive their youth.
INCONVENIENCE FOR MANY
To host this significant event and make no provisions for traffic and parking is hugely short-sighted and, quite frankly, insulting. To assume that this is how this event is accessed is to accept mediocrity and speaks volumes, and says to me that the organisers believe that people will attend because it's Champs, and those not attending just have to put up with the inconvenience in the streets because it's Champs.
The event itself - except for medal presentations where several of the recipients were not present - was well organised. But running a first-class event has many moving parts, and to inconvenience an entire section of a city and to make no adequate provisions for parking for your guests is to miss important parts of the process.
As large as Champs is, it could be even larger, as surely even more people in the diaspora would use the opportunity to visit their high schools and meet the current students to share wisdom and inspiration with the youngsters. The student athletes were impressive.
Congratulations to all the students who participated, and to the winners Edwin Allen and Calabar, well done!
- Dahlia A. Walker-Huntington, Esq, is a Jamaican-American attorney who practises immigration law in the United States; and is a weekly columnist with The Gleaner. Email feedback to email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org.