Gibson faces cancellation
Work on new stadium track may not be completed in time for Relay classic
André Lowe, Senior Staff Reporter
It appears that the Gibson Relays, scheduled for February 26, may become the first casualty of the renovation work being carried out on the track at the National Stadium, as poor weather in Europe has resulted in the delay of the material needed to carry out the repairs.
As a result, the mid-February completion deadline for the project has already been reworked and despite an expected increase in working hours, the track will certainly not be ready before the middle of March.
The material, which is being shipped from Germany, was originally scheduled to arrive in the island this week but will instead arrive sometime after January 22nd due to heavy snowstorms, which has blanketed sections of Europe over the past few weeks.
Given the delay, work on the surface is now expected to be completed towards the middle or end of March, weeks after the scheduled date for the Gibson Relays.
It now means that the March 30-April 2 Inter-Secondary School Sports Association (ISSA) Boys and Girls' Athletics Championships will most likely be the first meet held on the new surface.
The Gibson Relays, which was expected to have its 35th staging this year, was postponed twice before, when Jamaica hosted the Junior Pan Am Games in 1991 and again in 2002 when the country hosted the IAAF World Junior Championships.
Chairman of the Gibson Relays' organising committee, Neville 'Teddy' McCook, speaking ahead of a meeting that was scheduled last night to discuss the issue, bemoaned the news and pointed out that it was most likely that the meet will in fact be abandoned this year due to the tight Jamaica Amateur Athletics Association (JAAA) calendar.
"It's a massive blow I must say, but nevertheless we have never tried to intrude on anyone else's date," said McCook. "It's a long season this year and as it stands, we would have to cancel [Gibson Relays], but it's something that we will evaluate nonetheless."
McCook did, however, point out that there will be a consideration for a postponement to March 12, the same date as the G.C. Foster Classics at the G.C. Foster College of Physical Education and Sports.
"We have never asked anyone to abandon their date, if we miss, we miss, and we cancel and move on. I have, however, asked the [JAAA] president to look at the calendar and though this is something we would have to put to the committee, we want to see who has the 12th of March and even though its cutting it close, it's a consideration," McCook pointed out.
With plans already at an advanced stage with overseas athletes, officials from the Birmingham City Council with whom the JAAA has a budding relationship, meet officials are also concerned about the image that will be portrayed to their partners.
Major Desmon Brown, chairman of Independence Park Limited (IPL) - the State-run agency which has responsibility for the facility - confirmed the delay and gave an overview of the situation.
"The material for the National Stadium track will definitely not arrive in the island before the 22nd of January," said Brown. "It was originally scheduled to arrive in the first week of January, but the weather situation in Europe has caused a delay."
Brown also underlined that the most important consideration to the work being carried out must be the quality level, and that this will not be sacrificed in an effort to finish the job quickly.
"The work schedule that we are looking at right now is definitely going to affect the Gibson Relays. We are working with the suppliers to see if we can make some adjustments to the work plan; work longer days to see if we can finish in time. No decision has been taken at this point, but there are obvious quality concerns.
"We definitely don't want to rush it and so forth, but right now Gibson Relays definitely looks like an issue.
"If they don't have the Gibson Relays I would certainly miss the income for IPL, but the larger picture and more importantly is the fact that we will probably miss a major event on the calendar," Brown added.