We need to get on track - JAAA president highlights need for more synthetic tracks
Although he has not confirmed whether or not he will be seeking re-election for a second time, president of the Jamaica Athletics Administrative Association (JAAA), Dr Warren Blake, wants the federation to focus on infrastructural development over the next four years.
The JAAA annual general meeting and election will take place in November.
Blake, who acknowledged this area as a shortcoming in his two terms as local athletics boss, said that the installation of synthetic tracks around the island will allow the sport to attract interest from youngsters in all 14 parishes.
“It has to be a continued push at the federation to get more tracks across Jamaica and have a system in place where we can generate income for their maintenance,” Blake said. “If my team should seek to go on for another term, I think the main thing that we would try to improve is more participation in the sport, and I think having more facilities across the island will enable us to achieve that.”
He continued: “There are drawbacks as it relates to the number of synthetic tracks and where they are located, but also we help to get more tracks here. Before my administration, there was only the National Stadium, G.C. Foster and Montego Bay synthetic tracks. If we never pushed the need for these institutions (high schools) to have proper running surfaces, it would not have happened and people would be content with just grass tracks.”
Only two out of the eight synthetic tracks in Jamaica are located outside of the Corporate Area. However, with the surface at the Montego Bay Sports Complex in a prolonged state of disrepair, the only usable synthetic track outside of Kingston and St Andrew is located at the G.C. Foster College of Physical Education and Sports, which is located in Spanish Town, St Catherine.
The other tracks are located at the National Stadium, Stadium East, University of West Indies, Jamaica College, Kingston College and Calabar High School.
“We have been pushing for the Government to repair the track in Montego Bay and we have got nothing but promises. We have also been pushing for the Government to lay a track in central Jamaica and we haven’t got anywhere with that,” Blake said.
Blake also admits that if he and his colleagues were able to get stakeholders on board, Jamaica’s athletics could have benefited financially from effective marketing of the country’s success on the global stage over the last 12 years.
“In terms of marketing, there are things that you would want to do, and then there are things that you know could not be done without the full cooperation of other stakeholders. I think that was our problem, getting everybody on board to utilise what everyone has to offer. That was a difficulty that we didn’t manage to surmount.
“It is an opportunity missed, but I don’t think that it is totally gone and even at this stage, if we can get everybody on board, we can use the popularity of our athletes to market Jamaica’s track and field, and that would enable us to generate more income,” Blake reasoned.
Blake told The Sunday Gleaner that he has not had time to think through whether he should put his name on the ballot for the November elections, as he has been busy trying to steer the administration out of the rut caused by COVID-19.
“We are trying to ensure that we will be ready for the 2021 track season in the midst of the coronavirus,” he said.
Current JAAA General Secretary Garth Gayle is rumoured to be among those considering a push for the presidency.
Blake, who rose to the top of the JAAA following the death of then president Howard Aris in 2011, went on to win his own mandate a year later, after getting the better of Lincoln Eatmon and Grace Jackson. He was returned unopposed in 2016.