Hubert Lawrence |Time to consider new dates for Champs
As things stand, the 2019-2020 school year will end a fortnight later than usual. That’s because schools have been closed for two weeks. All Jamaicans hope and pray that the closure will help to put the brakes on the spread of the coronavirus.
Should the need to stop mass gatherings persist, the authorities will no doubt reset the school year, with a further extension of the closure. For argument’s sake, an order to stretch the closure for two more weeks will push the end of the school year out to the end of July.
If that happens, internal and external examinations will be pushed back, too. It’s not as unlikely as it sounds, because only a few schools can have regular classes online. Moreover, if principals have limited online teaching resources at their disposal, the focus will likely be on those facing external examinations.
If the health challenge resets the remainder of the school year, then special events like Boys and Girls Championships can be relocated on the calender. Once the danger of spreading the virus at big gatherings passes, ISSA and its stakeholders can reactivate their plans for the four-and-a-half day spectacle.
It would be win-win-win. ISSA would earn the income it uses to run most of the other high-school sports it facilitates. Sponsors would have their products and services in the shop window of the world and the student athletes of this country would get a chance to compete in the greatest high-school athletics meet of them all.
In this regard, it is probably better to think of Champs being reset from its original date of March 24 to 28 to a time in what could be a radically extended 2019-2020 school year, when it is safe to harbour 2,000 athletes, 30,000 fans and any number of officials and support staff in one place.
Such a possibility has been held open for the Carifta Games, which were to be contested in Bermuda on the Easter Weekend. Fear of spreading the virus forced the North American, Central American and Caribbean athletics body to suspend the event, but President Mike Sands has entreated coaches to keep athletes in shape for a rescheduled Games later this year.
To my mind, Champs is in the same boat. Health is the top priority and when normality is restored, it will be in everyone’s best interest to reset the school calendar.
Waiting for warmer months
One of my doctor friends has advised me that flu season dries up as we get to the warmer months, and that usually happens in April. With full cooperation with the measures designed to restrict mass transmission of the virus and rising temperatures, we all just might get out of this tricky period none the worse for wear. I hope he’s right, for all our sakes.
In the meantime, sports fans are going nuts. With increasing frequency, local sports are grinding to a halt. It’s the same internationally. There’s no football, no basketball, and no NCAA Indoor or Outdoor Championships. Fans who watch sport to escape the doom and gloom of reality are stuck in a dismal place.
It won’t last. Human trials for a vaccine start in April, and Jamaica’s swift action and warm temperatures will hopefully make the island safe in good time. When that time comes, we will be able to get back to normal. Then we can reset everything.
Hubert Lawrence has scrutinised local and international track and field athletics since 1980.