Veteran Sports reporter Mike King wrote that he “knew the 2014 Commonwealth Games would be a bridge too far for the various Barbados teams competing in Scotland,” in the Wednesday August 6, 2014, Midweek Nation Newspaper.
A number of persons have echoed this sentiment. However, though King’s article has some merit, the bridge that has been used as a yardstick to judge participation is built with medals alone. If we construct a more modern bridge, copying the blueprints of more developed countries, we will come to appreciate that the construct that is sports and participation in sport is built with far more materials that contribute to the development of countries and their people both economically and socially.
Trevor Browne, former President of the Barbados Table Tennis Association, and Barbados Olympic Association Inc. (BOA) Director said in Glasgow that one of the problems from the outset when teams leave Barbados is the language that is used which engenders a faulty expectation among the different stakeholders. The truth he says is that we know, for example, that our netball team is ranked 10th in the world and will be playing against nine others countries ranked higher. We cannot, therefore, realistically be participating with the expectation of a medal. There are other benefits to be derived.
He suggests that, “we should tell the people that socially the sport has saved these 12 ladies from delinquency and has contributed to their health and social development and hence bettered the society. We should tell the people that these ladies will be playing at venues that can hold up to 50,000 persons and that the Barbados flag will be flying at the locations for the duration of the games. We should also tell them that when the ladies play millions of persons will be watching and hearing the name Barbados. The Barbados Tourism Authority could not pay for this exposure. Through sport, countries can fly their flag in countries with which they previously were at war. Yes medals are important, but they are not the only factor that countries consider when deciding on participation.”
Let’s look at the Rugby. King wrote, “the rugby boys were mauled 68-5 Canada, and were hammered 56-0 by Scotland and 59-0 by New Zealand.” He did not mention in that same Pool A that Canada was also mauled at zero by New Zealand and Scotland, with the crowd at their back was able to score 14-17 against the silver medalist. The Rugby Sevens team did not lose a thing; in fact, they and Barbados were winners as about 40,000 Scots were chanting Barbados! Barbados! after their final group game because of the spirit in which they played the game. They even had a lap around the field to the full cheers of the entire Rangers Stadium, a lap of honor usually reserved for winners. How do we quantify this in terms of value?
Barbados has a long way to go in terms of investment into sport to win medals. In a conversation, Gideon Sam, President of South Africa Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee spoke of that country’s program “Operation Excellence.” In 2008 South Africa won just one medal at the Olympics. In Delhi 2010 Commonwealth Games they won 33 medals, this time they won 40. Sam said that South Africa spent $400million Rand ($12 Rands = 1$US) preparing their 187 athletes for the Commonwealth Games. He said his country did this because it recognized sports as an important contributor to the country’s development. In Operation Excellence athletes are given between $3,000-$10,000 Rands a month support and all their medicals, travel and meets fees are paid.
But let’s take a look at the medal tally. Of the 71 countries participating only 35 countries won medals. Nine of those countries like Barbados won one medal. Six countries won 2 medals. Three countries won three medals. One country won four medals. One won five, one won seven and two countries won eight medals. The top five countries shared the bulk of the medals; they were the only countries to get over 50 medals – England 174, Australia 137, Canada 82, Scotland 53 and India 64. When we examine the number of athletes to medals it is clear that winning medals could not be the primary reason alone for the countries to invest in sports.
Top 5 Countries and South Africa
|Country||Number of Athletes||Number of Medals||Population|
|Country||Number of Athletes||Number of Medals||Population|
|Trinidad and Tobago||124||8||1,337,000|
|St. Vincent and the Grenadines||26||0||111,000|
|St. Kitts Nevis||11||0||51,300|
The theme of the Glasgow Games was “Humanity, Equality, Destiny.” Athletes from all over the world were able to experience different cultures and meet new people, building a network of friends that Olympian, Frieda Nicholls promotes as one of greatest benefits of competition. UNICEF was able to make £2.5 million ($4.26 million/€3.16 million) from the Opening Ceremony alone for its charity work around the Commonwealth. It reportedly raised more than £5million from the Games.
The Barbados contingent nearly 100 strong at the opening ceremony conveyed the impression that Barbados is one of the most developed countries in the Caribbean. They looked the part of a democracy that is blazing its trail in the modern era and not a backwater country that could only send four officials and one athlete to a Games. In peacetime, countries show they dominance through sports. Numbers on the battlefield are important no matter the final outcome. Games are played in the psychic as well and from a psychological perspective Barbados was a winner from the get-go. To convert these numbers to medals is another matter for strategic planning and financial investment; however, Barbados should not waiver in the future from growing its participation. Congratulations are due to all the athletes who made the qualifying grade to attend the Games.
Finally, let’s conclude with the acknowledgement that winning is important. England won the most medals at the XX Commonwealth but at what expense? Here is an excerpt of what it took. This will give critics an idea of how well the team has done even to qualify for the games and the investment required if winning medals is to be the country’s ultimate objective:
“Between 2011 and 2015, Sport England has invested £1.5 million in Commonwealth Games England to support the core staffing infrastructure, functions and activities of the organisation to plan, prepare and manage Team England in Glasgow. Sport England also supported all of Team England’s athletes by investing £93,000 in a Performance Centre in Glasgow – the ‘Lions Den’ – which provided athletes access to a full range of clinical, conditioning, rehabilitation and preparation services during the Games.
Not only were Team England’s sportsmen and women well prepared while at the Games, eight sports also benefitted from nearly £1 million worth of Sport England funding in the build-up to Glasgow 2014. Athletics, Bowls, Judo, Shooting, Swimming, Table Tennis, Weightlifting and Wrestling were all recipients of Sport England Commonwealth Games funding that enabled 91 athletes to access dedicated training and preparation programmes with coaches, opportunities to take part in international competitions, and sport science and sport medicine support.
In addition, England Netball and Squash’s high performance programmes are funded by Sport England. Netball is receiving £5 million worth of funding over four years, while Squash is benefitting from £2.3 million. Despite Netball not medalling – losing in the bronze medal match to Jamaica – Squash won nine of the 15 medals on offer at the Games, including a clean sweep of the men’s individual medals with Team England’s flag-bearer Nick Matthew taking gold, James Willstrop silver and Peter Barker bronze.” (To read the full article visit https://www.sportengland.org/media-centre/news/2014/august/7/sport-england-investment-inspires-record-breaking-games-performance/).