Revival in sports underway
- Says sportsman extraordinaire, journalist, poet and sugar exectutive Dr. Ian Mc Donald

Stabroek News
October 19, 2003

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Stabroek Sportsí reporter Clyde Pestano recently interviewed Dr Ian Mc Donald, a former lawn tennis champion of Guyana on a range of issues including the current state of lawn tennis in Guyana, Cricket World Cup 2007, as well as his views on sport in general in the country.

The 70-year-old Mc Donald, who was born in Trinidad & Tobago, was appointed Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Sugar Association of the Caribbean in January 2000. The CEO is a Guyanese by adoption and describes himself as West Indian by conviction. Dr Mc Donald is married to Mary Callender and they have two sons Jamie 19 and Darren 14. He also has a son Keith, aged 42 from a previous marriage.

In 1986 he received the Golden Arrow of Achievement (AA) from the government of Guyana. Mr Mc Donald has written a weekly column in this newspaper, ďIan on SundayĒ since its inception and also is a columnist with The Nation in Barbados, The Gleaner in Jamaica and Outlet in Antigua. He has also contributed more than 400 viewpoints and sportsviews on radio in Guyana. As a sportsman, he was junior tennis champion of Trinidad & Tobago for many years and played at Wimbledon in the 1950ís. From 1956 to the early 1970ís, he was champion of Guyana and captained the Guyana team. In 1957 he shared the ĎSportsman of the Yearí award with George De Peana and represented and captained Guyana in squash. He represented the West Indies in its first ever Davis Cup team in 1953 and went on to play for and captain the West Indies Davis Cup team later in the 1950ís and 60ís.

SS: How long have you been with the Guyana Sugar Corporation?

IM: I came to Guyana (then British Guiana) in 1955 with the Booker Group of Companies and Iíve been with Guysuco since then and up to my retirement in 1999 in various capacities.

SS: What is your opinion on the appointment of former Guyana and West Indies cricketer Joe Solomon as Cricket Development Officer at Guysuco?

IM: Joe was an absolutely outstanding cricketer and has great knowledge of the game. Taking Joe (Solomon) on was the obvious thing to do. As you may know, he is chairman of the national selection panel.

SS: How important is Guysuco to sport in Guyana?

IM: Guysuco is extremely important to sport in Guyana especially in the rural areas. I know also that the corporation encourages and supports sports in many other areas. The fact is, sports is important to Guysuco and Guysuco is important to sport. Guysuco has a lot of first-class cricket grounds throughout the country which are kept in very good condition and on which many regional tournaments are played. We have always placed a lot of emphasis on sport in the sugar industry over the years.

SS: What is your opinion of sport in Guyana?

I.M: Well I think there is something of a revival. Look at our young football team (U-23ís) and the way they have been playing of recent. I think they have qualified for the next round of the Olympic qualifiers after defeating Barbados (on aggregate) and thatís excellent! Look at our squash players, Guyana literally leads the way in Squash in the Caribbean at the moment. In Nicolette Fernandes we have a player of international standard. Look at rugby, Guyana is not a country known for rugby but we beat Trinidad at the U-18 level and have qualified for the next round. I also believe that Guyana will be hosting the next round of the competition and that is good, so I have to say rugby also is on the up and up. I think the Guyana Rugby Football Union is doing an excellent job and they have in fact introduced the game into several schools. Look at boxing: we have a number of world champions in Vivian Harris and Wayne Braithwaite. Also look at bodybuilding, Sylvan Gardener recently won another gold medal at international competition and there were a few other medals. Some of our athletes have also done well overseas including Aliann Pompey and Marian Burnette, but at the local level athletics leaves a lot to be desired. I think for a country with a serious problem with resources we are doing extremely well though.

However, I think the disaster area is lawn tennis! I donít know when there was a last tournament organised by the national association. I donít know much about the national association, but it seems a shame to me that tennis has fallen on such bad days.

Itís a great shame that lawn tennis has not grown from strength to strength. Years ago Guyana won the Brandon Trophy and we were a vital part of the West Indies team that represented the region at lawn tennis internationally.

SS: Rudy Grant in a recent article in this newspaper has suggested that persons who can take lawn tennis forward are reluctant to get involved due to mal-administration and further that sponsorship has literally dried up. What is your opinion on his suggestion?

IM: If you donít have a well-organised association, then no one will want to sponsor it. In my days as you may be aware, I was not only playing tennis but also involved in administering the game.

There were many essential things that were necessary to have a fully functioning association. We always had to have annual general meetings, annual audited accounts and annual reports. In addition to that, there always was a national championship. Also, we made sure that the country was involved in regional tournaments. Those were the basic things that were done.

SS: How important is sports in schools to the overall national sporting agenda?

IM: Very important! In fact, in the old days we had sports masters and games masters in almost every school. Our schools are the key; but we need full-fledged games masters who are qualified and can do the job required. I donít think we have a proper schools-sporting programme, although there are competitions at the school level. Guyana had a very vigorous sporting tradition in our schools and we even competed at the regional level.

SS: What are Guyanaís chances of hosting World Cup matches in 2007?

IM: Well I donít think we should look at it as a chance of hosting matches. Guyana has to make an all-out effort to ensure we are a part of that major event. This country has a very proud tradition in cricket and that tradition propels Guyana to the forefront in terms of being considered for hosting matches. Our participation will show that Guyana is a full-fledged leader in Caricom and in addition there are many benefits to be derived. As I read it, wherever the World Cup has been held it has done good `foreverí for that country or venue. Therefore, from both points of view it is very important that we should make a very strong bid and further, donít even doubt ourselves as to whether we stand a chance. Itís not a choice even, we have to do it! Nothing must deter us, regardless of what we get, we must not be pessimists!

SS: How can the stadium be maintained?

IM: I would have thought that the people planning the building of the stadium would take into account its eventual maintenance. It must not be allowed to become a white `elephantí. It would be a disaster to invest millions of dollars in such a project only for it to be under-utilized. I would have thought though that the stadium be built to accommodate all sorts of sport and not cricket only. However, I think it would be a shame if Bourda does not get test cricket again due to the new stadium being used for international cricket. It is vital that Bourdaís heritage be maintained and hopefully it will still be used for international cricket.

SS: Any final comments.

IM: I think I am disappointed with the way my former sport, lawn tennis is being managed, especially when I see other sports doing well. Again, it seems to be a shame that lawn tennis is in the doldrums. I know persons may say well why donít you do something about it but the fact is I am 70-years-old and I have had my full share of not only playing tennis but also administering it. I firmly believe that sports administration these days should be left to persons on the younger side. They have more energy and zest and besides I canít be involved because Iím involved in too many other things.