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KC should try to capitalise on O’Hara’s ‘bare-it-all-incident’ at Champs

Published:Tuesday | April 7, 2015 | 12:00 AMLaurie Foster
Reverend Carl Johnson (front, left), chairman of Calabar High and the school's Principal, Albert Corcho, at the school's Champs 2015 victory celebration

Foster's Fairplay is disturbed that the peace initiatives leading up to Champs 2015, as relevant as they were, were only focused on the students.

Jamaica's world renowned five-day track-and-field showcase had in recent years become a battlefield, where the intense rivalry had smeared healthy competition. It had risen to off-the track confrontations, which were frightening.

Those who saw what was happening under the canopy of Champs, must be commended for taking steps to set apart the warring factions and bring some measure of sanity while maintaining the cut and thrust of what amateur competition ought to be. Apparently the conceptualisers of these most welcome moves, in their haste to promote peace, forgot to mention their objectives to the main sponsors.

No matter what, the top marketing executives representing brands locked in competition for market share will engage in face-offs, as they eyeball each other and plan strategies and counter strategies to give a product or their latest services that extra edge.

Praises be for all this action, as in the case of the country's main telecommunications outfits, it brought call charges down to considerably more easily managed costs. The level from which they came showed the advantage of the rivalry. The communicating public benefited immensely and smiled approvingly.

What has happened at Champs, now dubbed by Foster's Fairplay as the 'O'Hara bare-it-all incident', is an indicator that corporate boardroom battles have been taken to what should be life-enriching sport involving amateur athletes representing their schools, their communities and their families.

Representing Calabar High School, the 'innocent' young man, until now, far removed from corporate wars, has been used as a pawn in the view of this columnist and given his enormous talent, compromising a clear path to stardom. This would ensure, barring injury, a future of relative comfort for his family and self.

Who would want to deny impending glory to this humble Pembroke Hall resident whose mom is looking to, as a means to afford his relatives and friends recognition and respect?

Any disbeliever should visit Ashoka Road in Waterhouse and see the fine arts murals and listen to the residents boast about their queen Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce. This is what O'Hara and the gifts he has, deserve to achieve. He should be seeking, with the guidance and support of the adults who surround him, the required assistance to make it happen.

Instead, enter two companies driven by their balance sheets and who gets what at Christmas time, bonus et al, and O'Hara loses a lot of what his overall ability in and out of the classroom suggests is in store, just for the taking.

According to rules carefully laid out by the US collegiate system, he is now ineligible for a track scholarship, an option never to be ignored despite so-called better opportunities locally. The local governing body and owners of the annual pre-Easter spectacle - the Inter-Secondary Schools Sports Association (ISSA) - is advised to consult and consider something similar.

O'Hara will no longer be eligible for the prestigious Penn Relays. Champs 2016, even though he has the age requirements, could mark him absent. There is even talk of his losing all the points gained at Champs 2015 and all its disastrous implications, as it would mean that runners-up Kingston College could dry the tears shed in defeat. The 'Fortis' people should agitate for this.

It is interesting to hear the response of the school chairman, the Reverend Karl Johnson, as he addressed students at devotion, two days after the incident.

Having expressed gratitude for the sponsors, he continued: "The sponsors are not owners, the sponsors are mere supporters ... we encourage them not to succumb to any temptation to forget they are not owners, they are only supporters of the event."

It is unfortunate that the good pastor should seize the moment by attempting to drive a wedge between "sponsors" and "owners". These words suggest that the sponsors are being "put in their place" by telling them where their boundaries lie. With the lines of battle being drawn in the sand, they are inappropriate and likely to further inflame a potentially dangerous situation.

The cleric should be careful.