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Gibson/McCook Relays alive and kicking

Published:Tuesday | February 23, 2016 | 2:00 AMLaurie Foster

Last week, the team leader of the organising committee of the Gibson-McCook Relays (GMR) was interviewed on KLAS Sports Radio.

Any sentimentally inclined sporting enthusiast must have been duly moved.

Foster's Fairplay was privileged to have been part of the audience. The show, configured for the 'riding home' pleasure of working class Jamaica and hosted by a Fortis stalwart in sports journalist, Stratton Palmer, drove home a salient point.

The rich legacy of the event, conceptualised and cofounded by bright minds, was alive and kicking. Forty years ago, inspired by visits to the world acclaimed Penn Relays Carnival, Jamaica's now departed track and field icon, the energetic and ebullient administrator, Neville 'Teddy' McCook, could no longer ignore the bee in his bonnet.

The concept, aligned to the energy and enthusiasm to create and replicate for his own, led to the founding of the Gibson Relays, as it was first named.

Why not, as the Reverend Percival William Gibson, born in the same year as Prime Minister Norman Washington Manley - had played such a significant and seminal role in the shaping and steering of the McCook of the 1950s. The term 'no-brainer', not yet hatched, would now be quite appropriate.

It is no easy task to have Kingston College old boy and former athlete medical professor Rainford Wilks speak about the planning team and his achievements.

However, it would be a journalistic faux pas not to try. He was quizzed on attempts to emulate the McCook model and sustain the principles, prestige and precision of the event.

He explained: "The organisation and execution are based on the same principles as under Mr McCook. The committee consists of complementary personalities and skills required to execute the meet, many carefully chosen by McCook himself and serving long internship - are very prepared for the job."

The assessment demonstrated a stark and unapologetic resolve to laud the work of the man who threw the first die.

There was more to come.

"We have enhanced the organisation with modern information and communication technology, as well as organisational and accounting principles and requirements."

 

LOVE AND RESPECT

 

The love and respect for the giant of a sporting icon, seeming to be ever present asserted itself even more in what the professor must have thought was the final query as he offered a sum up remark.

"However, the basic attitudes, values and principles are the same ones enunciated by Bishop Gibson and the Honourable Neville Teddy McCook. We will not change a winning formula."

Foster's Fairplay is not known to sideline those who are the major players - spectators. They should always receive value for funds spent.

Many come to the park seeking innovations or features, new or established, which will heighten the appeal of and ensure lasting interest in the spectacle.

With this in mind and alert to scarcity of disposable income to satisfy a sophisticated entertainment appetite, there would be no ignoring that. The man who seems to forget his auspicious title, calling himself simply 'Rainford', responded.

"The GMR is a spectacle, its essence is high-quality athletics executed efficiently and on time. Jamaica is the focus and repository of high-quality athletics, and relay running in particular, and we feel no pressure to change anything, except being more efficient."

He referred to the GMR as "a training ground for track and field officials".

About overseas participation?

"(It) would complement the meet and we would welcome it, but it is difficult to arrange for a variety of reasons. We continue to pursue that initiative and we will see how it goes when the opportunity presents itself."

On future plans?

"We are in a strategic review process and will have to pay attention to several factors, including sustainable funding, penetration of the Caribbean and wider NACAC area in order to contribute to regional development of athletics. But short of extending to a second day, there is little room for change."

The chief organiser was less effusive on the 2016 features.

"We will introduce a bit of spectacle for some of the championship events this year with the help of (sponsors) Digicel. Our emphasis is on quality and efficiency in a safe, fun-filled environment. The spectacle will come from the performances."

Rest well, Teddy. The Gibson McCook Relays will live on.

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