Government’s sustained focus essential to local sports brand
The Free National Movement (FNM) Government has not been the most sports-friendly central administration in the country’s history, to be sure.
The first internal self-government group, the United Bahamian Party (UBP), paid a lot of attention to sports development. The UBP leaders, in particular Minister of Finance Sir Stafford Sands and Premier Sir Roland Symonette, literally paved the way for the initial success in international sailing.
During the 1940s and throughout the UBP’s leadership, The Bahamas was easily the foremost Caribbean country in international sailing, and indeed, a world power in Star Class, Dragon Class, Finn Class, 5.5 Metre, etc. When the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) ousted the UBP in 1967, the country was still one of the top sailing world powers.
In 1966, the UBP Government unveiled the Queen Elizabeth Sports Centre (QESC). The QESC remains the country’s greatest sports forum, collectively. It is correct, actually, to say that the UBP was the architect of modern Bahamian sports facilities. There are those who feel it is never appropriate to give the UBP any credit, because of the attached stigma of racial prejudice.
However, history is dotted with negatives and positives. The UBP was a highly sports-friendly government. Even without a structured sports department, the UBP Government found innovative ways through national funding and individual financial contributions, to maintain a strong focus on sports development. The UBP was superb, and without a doubt, the catalyst for The Bahamas’ sports brand.
The PLP continued the deep interest in sports development and brought into being the A.F. Adderley Gymnasium, and the C.I. Gibson Gymnasium, to compliment the grand QESC. Then, in 1977, 10 years into a consecutive governance of five terms, Prime Minister Sir Lynden Pindling elevated the national sports fraternity by establishing a sports ministry. Sir Lynden was the country’s second premier, first prime minister, and is widely considered the ‘Father of the Nation’.
Prior to Sir Lynden’s historic sports ministry decision, public national sports development was operated and monitored out of the Ministry of Education. Subsequently, the sports ministry under the PLP, put in place the Bahamas Games, to this date, the most comprehensive national sports competition in the country’s history.
The PLP proved to be equally as sports friendly, as was the UBP. Now, let’s look at the third governing group in the modern Bahamas, the FNM.
In general, the FNM does not compare with the UBP and the PLP in regards to spearheading national sports development. The FNM’s one significant claim to fame is the National Sports Subvention Program. On an individual basis, many Bahamians have benefited substantially, via the monthly funding advanced through the subvention program.
Otherwise though, the FNM has not orchestrated anything special in sports. The new Thomas Augustus National Stadium, and the old one, had the heavy stamp of the PLP. The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) World Relays (three of them) were products that came on stream under the PLP. So, the FNM is certainly lagging behind the UBP and the PLP, in terms of national sports development. The challenge from this forum is for the FNM to begin operating outside of the box as it did in creating the subvention program.
Our many sports ambassadors continue to demonstrate that they are entitled to a much larger slice of the national budget pie, and a ministry of their very own. This FNM Government can make that happen.
If it does, it would then become comparable to the UBP and the PLP in national sports development.
How about it Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis?
• To respond to this column, kindly contact Fred Sturrup at e-mail address email@example.com or on WhatsApp at (242) 727-6363.