Tokyo – here we come!
The celebration of youth, of life, of humanity that was Rio 2016 has simmered down to go hidden beneath the humdrum that is our daily life. Tokyo prepares – the Japanese knowing full well it is beyond all normal expectation to contemplate matching the colourful extravaganza that Brazil unfolded. Among the 20,000 sportsmen and women participating in the global fiesta were contestants of about every sport from almost every nation, from every clime. The flags of the world fluttered beautifully and made God's creation proud – all youth delighting to show wonderful thanks for the talents bestowed upon them by the Creator. A brilliantly resourceful and innovative people, Japan is sure to lift their efforts into providing everyone with surprise in the next four years as to the potency they will have invested into their emerging athletes.
Jamaica was certainly a great presence at Rio. Usain St. Leo Bolt made sure of that as he rewrote the athletics history book in letters of gold by doing what experts have thought impossible. The big man showed how size can be overcome as a deterrent to speed, and this sustained well beyond the expected lifespan of human potency to excel at the topmost rungs of athleticism. Bolt celebrated his 30th birthday at the end of the Games, but far from displaying attendant decline, gathered an acceleration leaving the most youthful in his wake. His achievement at three Olympic Games of gold medals in the 100 metres, 200 metres and in the 4 x 100 metres relay is unequalled and mind boggling.
Other territories of the Caribbean showcased themselves too at Rio. Miss Laverne Spencer of St. Lucia, though failing to get a medal, did reach the high jump final and attained a height which not too long ago was world record level. Kirani James, in my view, did about everything he could have been expected to do in defense of his 400 metres Olympic title. His silver medal is testament to the brilliance of the human spirit – overcome by superhuman odds. A race time of around 44 seconds is no joke. It's almost out of this world. Grenada and all of us must be proud of Kirani James.
Kim Collins of St. Kitts had to pull out of the 100 metres sprint, and the Virgin Islands boxer was overcome by his opposition, but they were by no means disgraced. They gave their all, as did so many other Caribbean contestants, for whom we can have nothing but admiration.
What is the cost of going to the Olympic Games? It's never going to be low cost for an athlete from the Caribbean. That is as far as the air fares go. There distance will always put our athletes at a disadvantage. Size and complexity of the Games ensure that the venues will – according to the need to provide varied high costing facilities as a package within a unified area – always be as distant as North America, the nearest to us. Tokyo in Japan requires our athletes to lay out at least $20,000 per ticket. So, then athletes on a team will entail shelling out $200,000 at a minimum.
Many will regard this as a very high cost. However, we in Dominica must necessarily consider this expenditure against the backdrop of promotion of our country in a relatively economical manner. In this regard, many believe the exposure reflected in one outstanding athlete in the Games would likely equate as much as the millions of dollars spent on regular advertising on television. What's to be considered also, an outstanding athlete could be a permanent or lifetime investment – and repeatable in many countries we seek to attract.
Which sports disciplines are we point to as advantageous to our position? Track and field is automatically a natural for our youth. As I have said many times before, we have the genes. We can find the means to allow the genes to work for us. The longer we delay, the further we postpone our dreams.
It takes between five to ten or twelve years to manufacture a champion, and it is a case of home grown being best. If the refugees – without a home of their own – could field a team at Rio, what then is to prevent us? In my humble opinion such a prospect must be taken as a national priority. We have turned our backs too long on the inspiration the Olympics puts forth for us to embrace, and the issue ought to put to shame all Dominicans at home and in the Diaspora!
If the argument is one of not having training facilities, let us assume the plausible realism that our talented athletes can gain scholarships to North American colleges to advance in their academic careers while at the same time carrying our flag in the Games.
All the track events are pathway open to us if only we set foot on it meaningfully. All our citizens who were happy to set eyes on Rio, thanks to the medium of television, should shout loudly demanding why our viewership has only been as second or third class citizens! Are we so psychologically depraved that we see ourselves as irreversibly framed within the unconscionable spirit? Rio has come and gone. Tokyo is already staring us in the face. Alas, we can't be all that immune to the inspiration so lavishly headlined before the world. Even sports like pool diving and gymnastics, generally considered out of the socio-economic reach of many, have now presented us with non-white champions. If we do not wake up and at least set up our athletics track, we have only persisted in strangling our national consciences, perhaps beyond resuscitation. Let's not be unwilling guests at Tokyo! The light shone by Rio must mark the way for us Dominicans. We should accept wholeheartedly by getting out of the dark.