Minister of Youth, Sport & Community Empowerment, Charles Griffith promised a revamp of the National Sports Council (NSC) that will make it nimbler and “fit for purpose” in an effort to spur sport development in Barbados.
Griffith was speaking during a news conference at the gymnasium of the Garfield Sobers Sports Complex in Wildey after the celebratory motorcade for senior Barbadian athletes, including Commonwealth Games women’s 400 metres champion Sada Williams, that were successful at global and regional sport events over the past few months.
“My ministry is doing several things to ensure that we can help and assist the athletes,” the minister said, adding: “We are working with the BOA to help our athletes at the elite level, and we must do what we must do at the government level, so we will be looking to restructure the NSC in short time to make it ‘fit for purpose’.”
Griffith said the NSC had an important role to play,developing sport at the grassroots level, and the government was seeking to harness that potential through a different outlook for the national sports agency.
“If we are the developmental organisation and the one to drive sports at the grassroots level, then we need to look in a different direction as it relates to how we deliver our services,” he said. “Shortly that will happen, so that we can restructure in a way that we can impact at the community level.”
The St John member of parliament said it was also important for long-term planning to take place for sportspeople from the island to achieve success on the global stage.
“The Olympics, Commonwealth Games, and World Championships are not only about track & field,” he said. “There are a few events in which we need to engage in a way how the Chinese had engaged for the Olympics in Beijing.
“I think we need to be focussed about how we treat to our athletes, and how we prepare them. It cannot be a case where from Olympics to Olympics we have a wish list. We need to identify those disciplines and athletes that we believe can hit the podium and focus our attention on them.”
Griffith was asked the ubiquitous question about the redevelopment of the National Stadium, and though he did not have a timeline, he said a temporary measure was being put in place.
“We know the track at the National Stadium is banned, and the Usain Bolt (Sports Complex) is under repair, so we have been proactive in the fact that if you look on the eastern side of (the gymnasium), we have recently cleared an area to put a 400-metre track that will be used in lieu of the National Stadium or until we have the National Stadium up and running,” he said.
At the same time, President of the Barbados Olympic Association (BOA), Sandra Osborne said the results across several global sports events, including motor racing, proved that the island had world-class performers, but they needed assistance to remain at the top level.
“We at the BOA have big dreams, and like any other small country, which has won medals at international games, we believe that Barbados can indeed win medals, and we have shown this year that it can be done,” she said.
“But elite athletes require access to resources to perform optimally. Developing an elite athlete requires a significant investment in high performance training in an environment of excellence based on sports science principles. All this translates to time, resources, and most importantly, good competition and training facilities.”