As someone born in the Fabulous Forties, I was brought up with the clear understanding that sports was mainly for fun and exercise. The idea of a “professional” sportsman/sportswoman just never came up. Competition enhanced sports, and at the end, the Trophy represented the ultimate prize. But with time it became obvious that in order to win, to beat the competition, the time spent preparing and training necessitated that the winning athlete needed to have a “sponsor”.
Communist countries perfected the art of “professionalism” because their sportsmen and sportswomen were able to have their needs fully funded by the state while preparing and training.
At around the same time sports became big business. Television and other means of broadcasting sports to a thirsty audience meant that more and more money came into sports. The performers, the athletes, became more and more important to the product and gradually became richer and richer as the better ones were able to demand a greater share of the so-called pie.
The Olympic Movement eventually understood that there was no longer “amateur” athletes and this nomenclature disappeared from the lexicon of sports. For the good athletes, sports became a lucrative occupation and their lifestyles during and after sports reflected their new found comfortableness and wealth. Everybody benefitted.
The different sports reflected the increased athleticism and skill of the participants; records tumbled and more and more people were physically involved in sports.
This increase in comfortableness and wealth of the participants and the sponsors, whose businesses reflected the increase in revenue that their involvement garnered, was not reflected in the economic well-being of the “authorities”. The ones who made and policed the rules, ensured fair play and a level playing field for ALL the participants, thus ensuring the longevity of the participants. Thus, envy, that despised human emotion, began to rear its ugly head and members of the “authorities” sought different ways of ensuring that the participants — those who spend hours, days and weeks honing their skills — understand that they “owe” these administrators, who believe that they deserve a bigger share of the pie. So, new and interesting ways of increasing comfortableness had to be found.
This was particularly interesting as most of the positions available to those in “authority” were “volunteer” positions with NO PAY. Drat! was the response of some, and with time, those at the helm of administration found different ways of increasing their comfortableness.
So the fight for positions on the administrative side of sports became more and more intense until in some arenas it became physical. Firms and individuals were hired to ensure victory at elections for these positions and length of service began to increase. Suddenly, one year at the helm of a sporting organization wasn’t enough. Soon it became two years, then four years, etc. The ones behind the scenes began also to find ways to ensure that the paying public get to know their names and with name recognition came comfortableness and wealth.
The scenes at different athletic events at our National Stadium regarding the starting of races has reflected this increasing desire to have the identities of the crew known. The ones reaping the rewards for the dedication to training and personal sacrifice will have to know that “if it wasn’t for me” your weeks and months of hard work, and dedication to detail, can disappear in the blink of an eye.
The false start rule, brought into being to placate television sponsors who were fearful of prolonged delay at the start of races reducing profit, gave the starter and his crew immense power. The difference between a red card and a yellow card after a false start could derail or curtail an athletic career.
So over the last year or two, races that start at our National Stadium have developed farcical proportions. Athletes have witnessed and heard of some who visually and electronically false start only to have their transgression labelled “faulty” start and a chance/bly given. So, those who either deliberately or mistakenly false start EXPECT similar treatment to those who have benefited in the past.
The unusual start to a race at the National Championships last year involving our great sprinter and icon Yohan Blake is a case in point. A member of the “crew” at the start had confessed that allowing Yohan to run “under protest” after a false start DID occur, and the “crew” vowed to try to not do that again!
Last weekend’s fiasco at the start of the finals of the women’s 100 meter hurdles event has hopefully encouraged the powers that be to look independently at that and similar peculiar events involving that “crew”.
No screaming on national radio by the head of the “crew” trying to malign the characters of those who now insist on a probe of the activities of this group of technical administrators should derail or delay this probe.