Sun | Feb 18, 2018

Foster's Fairplay | Time to reward stars of C'wealth Games

Published:Wednesday | January 31, 2018 | 12:00 AMLaurie Foster
Jamaica's Kemar Bailey-Cole looks up at a large video screen after winning the men's 100 metres at Hampden Park stadium during the Commonwealth Games 2014 in Glasgow, Scotland.

With no Olympic Games or World Championships scheduled this year, Jamaica has to be satisfied with a track and field event of less value and prominence. It seems like the last edition of the Commonwealth Games held in Glasgow, Scotland, was just a few months ago, but it is time for another staging, the action moving to the Australian territory of the Gold Coast.

The inescapable fact that Usain Bolt has bid his farewell to the sport, which he graced with distinction for 15 glorious years, is another limiting factor to the overall interest. Whether he planned to participate or not, his absence does, in fact subtract from the anticipatory hype that tends to go with any track and field event at the major level.

Questions should be asked. How can the country increase the interest the fans are known to show in the Commonwealth Games? It is a multisport event and comes under the auspices of the Jamaica Olympic Association. The parent group,

the Commonwealth Games Federation, is responsible for naming both the venue city and, by extension, the time of year for each staging.

Given that track and field is the flagship discipline, it seems to this columnist that the Gold Coast and April do not fit that bill. It is not when the athletes are properly tuned to strut their stuff. Those athletes need optimum conditions to enhance their appeal to the fans. Their best efforts are traditionally on display in July/August. With all those factors absent, the event suffers and screams out for remedial action.

 

IGNORE JOA FACTORS

 

The JOA will argue that climatic conditions do not allow for outdoor schedules in certain regions. The Gold Coast would be freezing during the more traditional times for the sport. It is the view of Foster's Fairplay that these factors should be ignored when countries are being chosen in the same way as those where there is violent political turmoil. The sport needs to be promoted in a manner that caters to its main stakeholders. Surely, the track and field athletes who create the greatest spectacle head the lot.

Coming closer home, there is another factor to be considered. It is well known that athletes of a certain calibre - the elite - are traditionally no-shows at the Games. This seems to be changing, and announcements of 'I'll be there' are being heard. This should be encouraged.

Old habits are known to die hard. These events have maintained a rigid stance, even with the commercialisation of the sport. Is it now time to take a keener look more in keeping with the changing times. There is dire need to reshape the thinking towards issuing payments to the performers - the ones who really drive the Games.

Athletes need to be paid. All sorts of new innovations are developing around them - updated training methods, drug enforcement, et al - and they need to be protected. They perform to give the Games a stronger image and organisers rake in millions in sponsorship and branding fees. Why can't the athletes be rewarded?

It is time for the Games' organisers to wake up and smell the roses. The athletes can make the product a whole lot better, but they need to be compensated. Medals are fine, but cash will certainly help to enhance the spectacle.

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