The YASCO fiasco

We know that as soon as you see those words, responsibility, accountability and consequence, you automatically think of politics. However, this is not a political commentary; well not in the way that you think. For this piece, we are taking up the topic of administration in general and sports administration specifically.

If you follow sports or read the back page of The Daily OBSERVER, you would have shared a common shocked reaction to the news about the stands located at the country’s sole track & field facility, the YASCO Sports Complex.

Under normal circumstances, we may have overlooked this as being simple maintenance due to age and/or weathering, but these are not normal circumstances. In this instance, we are talking mere days before the venue is to host the Coca Cola Inter-schools Championships. How could this happen?

The reaction by some has been described as “disappointed” but that is being nice. Disappointed may be when you expect to win the race but came in second, despite giving it your all. In this set of circumstances, “disappointed” does not begin to cover the depth of emotions collectively felt by all sports lovers.

It is hard to imagine how we could be just two days before this important event and we are now informed of the dire condition of the stands. Why weren’t inspections carried out before this point? Which leads to the salient question

Who is responsible for the venue and more specifically, the dilapidated stands?

Shouldn’t inspections have been carried out months ago? Judging by what we have seen and heard, we are very lucky that there has not been a serious catastrophe at YASCO, as these dilapidated, unsafe stands have been in use by school children and other spectators right up until this point.

The Ministry of Sports issued a release stating that following inspections by the country’s Ministry of Works Department, patrons will not be allowed to utilise the stands during the three-day event. Are we to assume that the Ministry of Works is responsible for the maintenance of the stands? We want to point fingers (yes, we do!) but we cannot do so until we are properly informed by persons in the know. We know that in the past, there were various memorandum of understandings (MOUs) under which the government relinquished control of the YASCO facility and many others to the sporting fraternity. However, we had heard from the Minister of Sports that the MOUs were rescinded. So, does the Ministry of Sports bear responsibility for YASCO?

What about the Ministry of Education? Schools regularly use the track for training so do they bear responsibility? We don’t know because we have not been told where the accountability lies. And as the finger-pointing gets under way, the real losers are the kids who have practiced long and hard for this event, only to be denied a proper venue. A venue, which at a minimum, provides their fans and supporters a place to sit.

Dr Colin Greene, principal of Princess Margaret School, summed it up nicely while talking passionately about this latest YASCO fiasco (that actually has a nice ring to it … the YASCO fiasco). He believes the development could have a negative impact on spectator turnout, adding, “Our athletes train hard for the year and it is one of the few opportunities they get to perform in front of a good-sized audience. The school has invested a lot into its preparation for this event; and we’re just very disappointed over the development because one way or the other, I just believe we are going to be short-changing the young athletes who have already made so much effort.”

In an effort to do damage control, Director of Sports Heather Samuel-Daley announced that the event would now be free to the general public. Yes, you are free to attend and stand up in the hot sun to watch the athletes. Hardly a satisfactory solution.

We now wait to see where this goes. Will this be another incident of incompetence that has no consequence? Will no one be held accountable for such a glaring oversight? Unfortunately, based on past experiences, our expectations are low and we venture to suggest that the answer to both of those questions is “yes”.

Recently, we mentioned that the words transparency and accountability are all but erased from our vocabulary. Depending on the outcome of this YASCO fiasco, you can add responsibility and consequences to that list as well; if you have not done so already.

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