As Grenada prepares to host what might be regarded as the biggest athletic event to be held here, many are questioning the forthrightness of the organisers in coming clean with the Grenadian people.
Last Thursday at a press briefing, organisers announced the names of some twenty-five sponsors and confirmed the participation of some fifteen additional athletes in the tournament. Among the sponsors are the International Association of Athletic Federations (IAAF), NACACA, GAA, Spice Isle International Auto Rental, Glenelg Spring Water, Rubis Grenada Limited, Republic Bank Grenada, Fit for Life, IGA Supermarket, Steele’s Auto, Netherlands Insurance, Amerijet, Ministry of Sports, Grenada Tourism Authority among others.
However, members of the media were faced with a certain level of hostility during the question and answer phase of the session as they attempted to delve into the financial aspects of the operation as it relates to Government involvement and media accreditation.
Among the questions raised were, “Are you now in a position to speak to the budget as promised at the launch of the event?” “What’s the nature of government’s involvement in event, what is the situation with media accreditation¬?”
Amidst of back and forth exchanges, the answers ranged from, “this is a private event,” “why not make the same inquiries of other private entities when they have their event,” “ask the government that,” to “we following IAAF rules”.
While one accepts the fact that the event is being undertaken by a private entity under the name Grenada Invitational Inc., it is also quite clear that there is a large reliance on public engagement. In the view of this newspaper the organisers seem to want certain things to remain hidden in the build-up to the April 9, event.
The first announcement in Grenada of the Invitational was made by prime minister Dr Keith Mitchell at one of his rare news conferences.
At the times the prime minister presented the event as one of the biggest on Grenada’s 2017 calendar and a show piece that would bare testimony to his government’s commitment to sports.
Director Dexter Mitchell who chaired last Thursday’s press briefing, and heads the Local Organising Committee, named the Grenada Athletic Association, the Ministry of Sports and the Grenada Tourism Authority as part of his list of sponsors. Journalists questioned the rather abrupt defensive position taken when a question was asked regarding the level of Government’s involvement in the event?
When last checked, all three entities mentioned by the chairmen are government run institutions which are financed entirely or in part by the taxpayers of this country. By virtue of that fact they should account to the people of Grenada, in matters of a Private/Public Partnership arrangement.
It is rather ludicrous to assume that the media should turn a blind eye, or even remain mute on issues as they relate to national concerns. In our view it would have made better sense for the organisers to have prepared a press release and sent it to the various media houses. However they chose to wear a veil of secrecy at their own news conference.
Notwithstanding what transpired at the press briefing, what was even more striking was the behaviour of the so-called professional organisers who took to social media to justify their actions by bashing media practitioners who were present at the event. Fueled by certain other members of the media, those practitioners who confronted the organizers at the briefing were accused of having political agendas and trying to tarnish the image of those behind the invitational meet.
This newspaper has learnt that it is not only members of the media who are being listed as having a political agenda but just about anyone perceived to be getting in the way of the meet or asking awkward questions about just how much of State resources has been pledged to an event which organizers have gone out of the way to brand as a private event.
This list we learnt, includes but is not limited to members of the Grenada Athletic Association, who we were told were initially sidelined with the hope that the IAAF was going to sanction the event without following due process; members of the Ministry of Sports who are somewhat hesitant to render voluntary service to a “private event” outside of their normal work hours and the list goes on.
It must be noted that while this paper supports the event as a plus for Grenada in terms of international publicity and the opportunity for aspiring athletes to get the opportunity to see international star athletes in real time, one must not lose sight of the fact that there is a lot more to this event than what meets the eyes, and those involved must be bold enough to take off the mask and come clean with the Grenadian people.