I remember someone saying to me while I was growing up that you never realize how poor your home looks until you invite someone to visit. This is where I believe Jamaica is right now as some people within these shores are thinking of making Jamaica a Diamond League destination.
If the Jamaica International Invitational is to become a Diamond League meet it means that, as a nation, we would be inviting in cameras from all over the world. Our star athletes would be competing against the very best in the world in a variety of disciplines that would require us to put the stadium on show even more than we do now. But before we can invite the world in we have to spruce up our house so as to avoid potential embarrassment.
Last weekend I was at the Queens Grace Jackson meet at the 50-year-old facility and had reason to run across the field to speak with some Australian athletes who were here and have a word with or two them. Afterwards I took the athlete out to the entrance facing the Stadium East field to get a decent picture in proper lighting and what I saw was embarrassing.
Look, I understand that Independence Park Limited has limited funding with which to maintain the facility. The evidence is there. The cement walkway has crumbled and in desperate need of repair and the place just looks old and in need of a serious face-lift, but the cut grass that littered a section of the entrance, a giant sign that was left discarded near to the concession stands, cut branches lying around atop equipment speak to neglect more than anything else. Is this the kind of image that we want our national stadium to be projecting?
I already feel we have achieved a miracle in having an IAAF World Challenge meet at the stadium that aesthetically is not up to scratch, but it’s all we have. Going forward however, until we can somehow raise the billions of Jamaican dollars needed to either rehabilitate the National Stadium or build a brand new one, we need to make sure that it looks the part of a National Stadium.
It’s almost ironic that the people of this country, in their perpetual state of ignorance, could not see the need for a national stadium when Norman Washington Manley first proposed building one more than five decades ago. A lifetime later it is still the only one we have suitable to host a World Challenge meet and potentially a Diamond League meeting. In many ways the stadium reflects just how far we have regressed in all that time and like the economy – broken down and desperately need of repair – the national stadium needs a makeover, a new lease on life.
In the meantime however, until we can inject that life into it, we need to make sure that even in its ‘broken down’ state, that we can invite guests in without fearing embarrassment.