Nationals set for November 21 – 25 at Providence Stadium
THE annual National Schools Cycling, Swimming and Track and Field Championships is set for November 21 – 25 with the centre of activity once again taking place at the National Stadium, despite talk since last year’s hosting that the event would be moved to the Leonora National Track and Field Centre this year.According to the Guyana Teachers Union (GTU) officials, which hosts the event jointly with the Ministry of Education (MoE), many of the districts are still unable to provide proper footwear for the athletes, because many of the Regional Education Officers (REOs) “did not budget for it” or put any measures whatsoever in place to have the athletes furnished with the appropriate footwear.This negates the event being staged at the Leonora facility which provides a synthetic track, as it is not advisable for athletes to compete on the rubber surface without footwear.“We were supposed to be going to the stadium at Leonora, but because most of the districts are not prepared to provide running shoes for the athletes we did not move; we’re hoping that by next year that will happen so that we can utilise that stadium,” a GTU official told Chronicle Sport yesterday.However, it was only last year organisers said that plans were being put in place to sensitise participating districts on the need for the athletes to have footwear, so that the event could be held in Leonora this year. Apparently that was to no avail and nothing was done, while the GTU says ‘there’s no money for it at the REOs’ end.“Every region is responsible for their athletes. We spoke with REOs who are saying that they did not budget for it, not all the REOs, just some of them, so they are saying that it would be difficult for them to source the shoes”, the official further noted.As such, the highly anticipated track and field segment of the championships will continue to be held at the National Stadium, the swimming will be held at the National Aquatic Centre (NAC), and the cycling will be held almost exclusively at the National Park, instead of being held alongside the track events at the National Stadium.In the past, the championships, known simply as ‘Nationals’ by most athletes and fans, used to be moved around, being held at varying venues across Guyana including Linden and Berbice, but in recent years the event has been centralised in Region Four.The annual event features athletes from all across Guyana grouped into 16 districts and competing in various age groups ranging from eight and under to the open category. It is the biggest multi-sport event among schools, and for many athletes from far-flung communities it is their only opportunity to participate at events outside of their communities.Despite the ministry continually touting the need to make sports an integral part of education, to the point where the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sport was relegated to being a department within the Ministry of Education, not much effort is being put into the hosting of the schools sports, with many components being left to “last-minute” arrangements.According to a GTU official, it was only last month that the MoE gave any indication that the planning of the school sports was of any real importance, leaving the event to once again see last-minute organisation, much as was the case last year. This, notwithstanding efforts for the two parties to meet earlier in the year and avoid the embarrassing last-minute organising that would only see the athletes suffering in the end.“You got to understand the policy in this thing, it’s early September that the ministry calls us in and they start meeting again. Every year we’re saying alright just after ‘Nationals,’ we’ll meet in December, we’ll meet in January, and you try to get a meeting and no meeting.Sometimes you plan a date and [on the date] you get a call to say they have to go off to something, they have to reschedule, and sometimes it’s difficult to get a rescheduled date and stuff like that”, the official stated.The Chief Education Officer (CEO) is reportedly the coordinator for the event at the MoE end. The current CEO (ACTING) is Marcel Raymond Hutson, who could not be contacted, although efforts were made to get a link to him.The GTU said that plans are also still being mused over staging the Primary schools and Secondary schools’ events separately, so as to have two separate championships; however, like the move to Leonora, that idea also had to be shelved because of the late start in arranging the event.