A roadmap for development through sport
By Dr Martin Jagdeo Boodhoo
Guyana Chronicle
March 31, 2003

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DEVELOPMENT tends to be perceived and defined mainly in economic and fiscal terms with various models and paradigms, and in the process the relevance of community participation is often overlooked or given little attention.

In this Viewpoint I wish to focus on some thoughts on Sport as a potent vehicle for enhancing and cementing human relationship and world understanding which are the foundation pillars for stability and peace in any country.

Without doubt, the world has become materialistic and everything tends to be sent through economic and financial test tubes. We have become obsessed with dollars and cents, which in turn have dulled our senses and undermined mutual tolerance and respect. Some call it the ‘rat race’! Sport provides a broad-based platform for preparing and enhancing the participation of all citizens in the fulfillment of life, regardless of our position. Sports as a pastime, relaxation or recreation is open to people of all ages, gender, size, race, religion, colour or national origin.

Recreational activities offer a variety of choices and facilitate equal and easy access for the young, middle-aged, not-so-young, as well as the physically challenged.

At this point, let me add a caveat. It has been said that all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. But it should be recognised that all play and no work gets you nowhere.

Every country has various options and styles in sporting activities depending on its geographic location and cultural evolution. Whatever form it takes, the end result is the promotion and enhancement of inter-personal relationship, accord and international goodwill which cement the bonds of friendship and mutual respect, across national borders, even in a competitive environment.

This was visibly explicit in the Commonwealth Games held last year in Manchester, England, in which I had the privilege of participating as a support member of the Guyana team. In fact, my voluntary and professional association in social work spans a period of over 50 years in private, public and non-governmental organisations. I make this point to encourage others to engage in or deepen and broaden their involvement in sport and voluntary activities; and so contribute to moulding our nation, especially the young.

Alas, the infrastructural and related facilities in our country are limited and a great deal still has to be done. In this regard, let me underline the contributions of the Private Sector and the sugar industry in particular, in which I served for over 20 years as a paramedic, a social welfare officer and a housing officer.

The urgent need for a national stadium - too long delayed - has been echoed in many quarters. We have an abundance of land in Guyana, yet many areas do not have adequate playing fields and open spaces where one could breathe the fresh air of relaxation and take part in community activities.

Our economic and social planners have to reconstruct a roadmap to encourage and facilitate the participation of citizens in community activities and so enhance inter-personal and collaborative relationships. Such activities do not only create leaders and instill discipline but also foster teamwork; and at the same time give responsibilities and opportunities for ordinary people to play a role in the development process.

At both the amateur and professional levels we have witnessed the celebration of success of our sportsmen and women. Many have risen from humble beginnings to international fame in cricket, boxing and athletics, to name a few sporting options.

It should be noted that in Europe and North America sport has provided not only entertainment for the public but also investment opportunities in the Stock Exchange. Man, let me tell you, Football is big business over here.

In order to realise greater benefits from Sports I wish to recommend to the educational authorities the addition of another ‘R’ to the traditional three ‘R’s’ of Education; that is ‘running’ (Athletics). This should be added to Reading, Writing and Arithmetic, in the official school curriculum. I feel sure that our people in all the regions of Guyana would welcome a more serious and concerted approach to the development of sporting facilities.

In conclusion, let me exhort the Government, the Private Sector, workers and consumers’ organisations, donor agencies and ordinary citizens to make their collective and individual contributions for the enhancement of sport and recreational facilities in the building of a Guyana, where each individual would have the opportunity to aspire to excellence and fame, or simply to realise a more fulfilling life, in a healthy and friendly environment.

(Dr Martin Jagdeo Boodhoo is currently a Management Consultant. He is a former United Nations Adviser and Pro-Chancellor of the University of Guyana.)

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