THE importance of sports to the health of a nation is undoubtedly of paramount importance and therefore it should be one of the areas of human endeavour that should be focused upon with vigour and commitment.
Unfortunately, in this modern world there are many people who cannot appreciate this fact and could not care less about engaging in any sport discipline or contributing towards its expansion and development in any tangible way.
Some even erroneously see financial investments as having no national economic benefits. Nothing could be more far from the truth than such a myopic view. On the contrary sport activities bring tremendous economic benefits and that is why there is always so much lobbying and tussle among the advanced nations to host the Olympics, World Cup Football, and other similar mega sporting events. Hosting of these events helps to boost tourism, create employment and stimulate growth in the construction, service and commercial sectors of a national economy.
On the other hand engaging in sporting activities by people help them to become healthier in body and mind and therefore more productive on the job, less prone to injuries and illnesses and therefore health services are less taxing on financial and human resources. Overall this brings significant benefits to the national economy indirectly. At the same time the younger sections of the population who engage in sports whether competitively or as a hobby are less likely to get involved in anti-social activities such as crime and use of drugs, etc.
Keith Johnson in article entitled Olympism, makes some very pertinent observations on this issue:
“The issue of government’s involvement in sport has attracted many an enthusiastic analyst across the globe for decades. Indeed, at its most recent Congress, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) focused some attention on this aspect of international sport.”
“Governments see themselves as having been elected by the people to govern. This is their mandate. Part of that mandate is to facilitate the health of the nation.”
“It has long been argued that the right to health care is a fundamental right of every human being. There are many ways in which the government of any nation seeks to facilitate the general well being of its population. While many governments expend resources on the provision of appropriate curative facilities there has been increasing emphasis placed on the preventive approach. Part of this preventive approach involves the promotion of physical education and sport.”
“In most societies therefore governments establish ministerial portfolios to cater for sport. It is unfortunate though that in many of these societies the ministerial portfolio for sport is often tacked on to some other portfolio or set of portfolios. Sports analysts claim that this reality reflects the government’s failure to understand the importance of sport to national well being and signals their intention to be most frugal in their budgetary allocations to what should otherwise be considered an integral component of national development.”
So the evidence of the benefits of sporting activities is overwhelming and therefore the need to establish a well organised system and policy with respect to sports and treat it with priority as an integral part of the developmental thrust is not debatable but rather an imperative. But sometimes the argument of lack of financial and human resources and physical infrastructure are used to justify the neglect and underdevelopment of sports. However, this argument does not hold much ground because Cuba which by no means is a wealthy country and also doffed by a five-decade old economic embargo has one of the best administered and managed sports system in the world and consequently has emerged as a sporting powerhouse.
What Cuba has demonstrated once there is the commitment and will to succeed creative and imaginative ways will be developed to overcome the constraints of financial and other resources.
On this note, the announcement by the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sport that in its pursuit of ensuring a more organised record keeping of information of athletes will be establishing a comprehensive database to aid in the effective management of data. This is a positive step and will certainly help in the administration and management of this sporting discipline.
The Minister with the portfolio for Sports, Dr. Frank Anthony has made a very refreshing observation:
“Sometimes we hear the lament that we do not have enough grounds with equipment but when you go around this country you can find literally hundreds of grounds all over the place. Sometimes we do not know who is in charge of them…as a way of bringing better leadership to the sector… we can work along with them (persons in charge of facilities) to make sure that the facilities are being put to better use.”
In this regard, the poor state of many of the community centres located in the rural communities come readily to mind. The one at Uitvlugt is mismanaged and mal administered, while at neighbouring Leonora a total mystery surrounds it as the pavilion and other buildings and the fence have been dismantled and the ground is now even unfit for cows to graze. But sad to say no one is telling the public what s the situation with this facility even though it has been in this state for years. These are only two examples, there are dozens of similar facilities which are in a similar state. Many school playgrounds of all places are also in a deplorable state.
The construction of an Olympic-sized swimming pool and squash courts is also good news for local sports and will certainly help to nurture and develop the potential of our budding sports men and women.
This column would like to urge the Ministry to explore the establishment of an institution for training of administrators and managers of the various sports bodies and organisations because undoubtedly poor administration and management are some of the weak areas.