I confirmed yesterday that it is not likely, top athletes Shaunae Miller-Uibo and Steve Gardiner will be included in Team Bahamas, at the upcoming Pan Am Games, set for Lima, Peru July 26-August 11.
A meet that they are sponsor-committed to, I understand, actually takes priority in this instance. This situation speaks to a need for clarity on the circumstances elite athletes have to deal with in today’s sports market.
This dilemma is a source of frustration for members of government and many of the general public. They take the view that once an athlete collects the monthly installments from subvention grants, he/she ought to live up to the obligation of competing in high profiled world and regional events, in the interest of representing The Bahamas.
Well, the picture is much bigger.
Quite frankly, the $34,000.00 amount, or less, that an elite athlete is afforded by the government through the Ministry of Sports’ Subvention Program annually, does not compare favourably to contracts with sponsors, those huge athletic equipment companies.
Let me hasten to submit that I don’t believe that patriotism can be gauged by the decision to opt for events more meaningful to sponsors, rather than, for instance, competing in the Central American and Caribbean Games, the Commonwealth Games or the Pan Am Games.
Perhaps it is time to make an adjustment to how we view our elite athletes and their responsibilities to the country, once they receive subvention.
Should we take a hard line?
On the other hand, should there be full acknowledgement that whenever our elite athletes compete, The Bahamas gets mentioned prominently.
“And, from The Bahamas…..” is how the usual introduction goes. So, whether at the Pan Am Games or at a meet in Florida more suited to the certain sponsorship arrangements, Miller-Uibo and Gardiner give quality exposure to their country.
They are both top sports/tourism commodities. I venture to point also, that, the positive image they give to the country is far beyond what they get through subvention.
Without a doubt there needs to be a discussion on the issue.
Should the feet of elite athletes such as Miller-Uibo and Gardiner be held to the fire, and their presence at regional events be a condition for subvention to continue? Or, should they be afforded flexibility?
Let’s have that discussion.
Meanwhile let’s appreciate being able to boast of having two of the finest athletes in the world.
(To respond to this column, kindly contact Fred Sturrup at email@example.com or on WhatsApp at 727-6363).