Caymanas Track Limited (CTL) is losing money on a daily basis. The Government of Jamaica, the only shareholder, insists that the company will be divested. Timeline after timeline for divestment passes by with a regularity that defies logic. A “divestment committee” is formed and the chairman insists that he is “working on it” (reminds me of a Burger King advertisement of recent vintage) when questioned by worried stakeholders. One could not be faulted for thinking that the Government-appointed board of the company would develop a more hands-on policy as frantic attempts are made, first to minimise losses, and second, to improve the handle (the amount of money bet on its programmes), both locally and overseas. Instead, punters, the life blood of the sport, are treated as if ‘dem-mus-come’. Races never start on time. The official reason is always “technical difficulties”. The air-conditioned North Lounge at the track is subject to the whims and fancies of the employees. For example, no ticket sellers are in place half-hour before the start of the first race, and air-conditioned units are either not working or not turned on at least one hour before the start of the first race to welcome the early punter. Also, food is running out during well-established ‘big’ racedays, and recently, word has surfaced that fans/supporters of racing who buy four reserved seats for six months to enable these supporters of racing to bring guests to the track from time to time are told by the promoters that they will be issued with only two tickets, and if they are bringing guests who do not come to the track with the person who paid for the seat, “just ask for one of us at the gate” and it will be okay! Woe on to the guest if the named official is not available at the time of arrival of the guest. There is a story making the rounds at the track that last week Thursday (September 3), CTL was simulcasting races from Gulf Stream Park in the USA. The second race was won by horse #5, Behzads Pride. However, when the results were posted by the company, another horse (my source insists that it was horse #4, Unspoken Quality) was posted as the winner and dividends declared. It is further alleged that punters who backed the posted winner promptly cashed their tickets. Minutes later, after a telephone call to “control”, the error was corrected, and punters who correctly selected #5, Bezhads Pride, as the winner, were duly paid. My source insists that losses to CTL were in the region of J$190,000. Another loss. The standard answer of “Oops!” will be accepted and the company moves right along to another day. Another loss! Finally, the action of the raceday stewards in suspending jockey Aaron Chatrie after his mount, Woman is Boss, was disqualified for interfering with Asia’s Dream in the seventh race on Saturday August 29 was understandable after a slow-motion review of the race. However, to suspend the jockey from taking further part in the race meet (he had two more rides for the day) because he was guilty of “ungentlemanly behaviour” when told of his disqualification, begs the question: Are the raceday stewards competent enough to make a decision that a jockey is in “no condition to ride?” I maintain that that decision is a medical matter. Even if it is psychological, evidence from a doctor/psychologist MUST be obtained. No decision that affects a livelihood should be made arbitrarily. It must be evidence-based. As the operation steward stated when questioned by The Gleaner reporter, Ainsley Walters, they do have a discretion (according to the rules) that is unassailable. BUT ONLY IF THERE IS EVIDENCE! Each individual deals with anger and disappointment differently. One jockey may remain quiet and take it out on the horse or his competing jockey. Aaron Chatrie may have “blown his top” to get it all off his chest and thereafter ride in a most professional manner. Only a steward with a crystal ball would know which is about to happen and anticipatory breach of rules just isn’t allowed. This wrong MUST be corrected. J$190,000 in losses
NATIONAL TREASURES The Rio Olympics are over and can claim to have been an athletic success. Pre-game warnings about guests and athletes running a great risk of being robbed, shot, falling sick with the Zika virus, or getting violently ill by coming in contact with sewage-contaminated water proved to be greatly exaggerated. Of course, there were reports of robberies and athletes and guests becoming ill, but so far, nothing on the scale of the pre-game predictions. Jamaica had a very successful Rio Olympics. We ended up with 11 medals, one short of the 12 garnered in Beijing, but with more gold than the record Beijing haul. Sadly, our nation says goodbye to the greatest male athlete of all time, as our ‘hero’ Usain Bolt has stated that Rio would be his last Olympics. The question for me (and hopefully the nation) is: what next? Without Bolt’s guaranteed three gold medals, will our medal tally suffer in Tokyo, the venue of the 2010 Olympic Games? The answer lies in planning. The nation’s sports administrators need to start planning for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics from September 2016. Talent of Jamaicans in multiple sports need to be identified and nurtured in order to qualify for the next Olympics. Once identified, these athletes need to be supported financially, medically and with the best coaching that money can buy. Yes, what money can buy; as a previous prime minister said, “it takes cash to care.” Money is a performance enhancer. When communism was rife, countries that realised the importance of sports would ’employ’ athletes in order to ensure that they could spend all their time practising (training), thus resulting in them being better able to win medals in games like the Olympics. Western countries frowned on this practice as these countries (albeit with the aid of drugs and corruption) dominated the medal table. With communism being defeated, what now entails is much of the same. Some of the countries that were most vociferous in condemning the practice of state-sponsored professional athletes now find themselves doing the same thing. In 1996, England subsidised the participation of its athletes in the Olympics to the tune of £5 million. They won 15 medals at the Olympics. This embarrassing result saw England subsidising sports to the tune of £54 million in 2000. England garnered 28 medals. In 2012, England subsidised sports to the tune of £264 million: England garnered 65 medals. This year (2016), England subsidised sports to the tune of £350 million and they surpassed that amount of medals this year. England gave their athletes £28,000 annually to allow them to concentrate on training. This is exactly what communist countries were doing in the past. This year at the Rio Olympics, England increased their medal tally and was just edged out on the last day of competition from second place in the medal tally. Back home, here in Jamaica, the Government has announced a subsidy reported to be in the region of J$60,000 monthly. It is a literal drop in the bucket, but a very important start that needs to be increased, especially with no present male superstar on the horizon. When one looks at the reality of an Olympic athlete’s financial support in the build-up to Olympic qualifying performances, it is soon recognised as very obvious that if it wasn’t for our natural west African genetic superiority, Jamaica would not be the world athletic power that it most certainly is now. We need to understand the potential benefits to be reaped from our athletes’ performances on the world stage. We need to invest more in their preparation (facilities, coaching, medical issues and anti-doping) and upon doing so with taxpayers’ money, we (Jamaica) need to ensure that these athletes are not exploited by greedy support staff, who see these athletes as a money tree and not as national treasures. It takes cash to care. Let us, with one accord, insist on a state-sponsored fund geared specifically for Olympic preparation. Our athletes deserve no less. Congrats to our Jamaican Olympians. You are all national treasures. Thanks.