There is this true story of a sporting stalwart who approached the late Sir Stafford Sands during the mid-1960s with a request for government backing to represent The Bahamas at an event in the United States.
Sands, who was then the nation’s tourism and financial maestro, reportedly informed that his government had not set aside any funding for such sporting situations. Nevertheless, he assisted through his political party.
Speed Weeks and the Bahamas Flying Treasure Hunt were trademark sports projects spearheaded by Sands. Race drivers from all over the world(including the great Sir Stirling Moss of Great Britain, Mexico’s Pedro and Ricardo Rodriguez, Americans Phil Hill and Dan Gurney)converged on New Providence for Speed Weeks annually during the 1950s and the 1960s.
There was a similar situation with the world adventurous pilots who connected yearly to the famous Bahamas Treasure Hunt, but, not much consideration was given in that era to projecting sports for the locals.
Sands personally funded a team in baseball, but the government of the day did not have in place a progressive plan for local sports.
In ensuing years, governance in The Bahamas became more sports-friendly.
Following the 1977 General Elections Prime Minister Sir Lynden Pindling of the Progressive Liberal Party, added another historical chapter to his long legacy. He appointed the first Minister of Sports(Kendal Nottage).
Subsequently, under Pindling, the Ministry of Tourism began providing job situations for elite athletes like Danny Smith, Frank Rutherford, Cecil Rose and Pauline Davis.
Sir Lynden and his party lost governance to Hubert Ingraham and the Free National Movement(FNM)on August 19, 1992. The FNM continued the sports-friendly governance. It was this central administration that brought into being the Subvention Funding Program for elite athletes.
That decision turned out to be a most beneficial financial crutch that helped to prolong the careers of our international stars. This government has also ushered in the all-important Bahamas Anti-Doping Commission in compliance with the UNESCO agreement.
It was in fact Ingraham who was responsible for a big boost in the national budget for sports, and, in a serious financial downturn, he was very kind to the national sports program.
The prime minister’s rough style can be questioned and in many instances legitimately so, but to his credit, he has been responsible for a continuance of sports-friendly governance. This situation for the sports fraternity still needs to be upgraded, but the trend is encouraging.
During 2011, Ingraham and his government will be further challenged to maintain the sports-friendly attitude. The nation’s sporting family deserves a strong focus from the government because it provides that international image-enhancing factor like no other aspect of our society.
Ample proof is The Bahamas’acknowledged status as the mightiest sports country in the world per capita.