The Spice Isle is moving ahead with plans to stage the inaugural Grenada Invitational track & field meet at the National Stadium at Queen’s Park with the blessings of the International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF).
Already a host of elite track and field athletes have confirmed their participation in the one-day event to be held at the Grenada Athletics and Football Stadium on April 8th.
During the official launch of the Grenada Invitational, Bahamas ace athlete, Chris Brown whose job is to bring the athletes to Grenada said he has already secured the commitment of just over two hundred athletes who will be participating.
Brown provided the launch with some of the big names to grace the event -Veronica Campbell-Brown of Jamaica, Kim Collins from St. Kitts, along with Ashley Spencer, LeShawn Merrit, Justin Gatlin two times convicted drug cheat, and David Oliver of the United States.
The list of top flight local athletes who are expected to showcase their talent before the home crowd are 400 metre specialists Kirani James, Rondell Bartholomew, and Bralon Taplin, as well as Decathlon athlete Kurt Felix, and Konika Beckles.
According to Brown, the international arena is buzzing with excitement over the event, the first of its kind in Grenada.
Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell who launched the games believes the Grenada Invitational is not just about showcasing the talents of the athletes, but it is also about the economic possibilities that will result in providing opportunities for everyone.
Dr. Mitchell spoke of his satisfaction in having the two stadia constructed in 1996.
“We know that our vision to construct these stadia back in 1996 was not understood by everyone, and we did face criticism for investing so much,” he said.
The Prime Minister is pleased that the stadium which he referred to as a first-class facility will host an international athletics meet of this magnitude.
He said when the sod was turned for the reconstruction three years ago, he indicated that the stadium will, in time, become a national monument showcasing the best of the world’s athletes.
Dr. Mitchell made a plea for partisan politics to be put aside for the sake of the development of the country as government recognizes that it is constraint with what it can do for the people.
“This is why we need partnerships, we need committed men and women who can look beyond partisan politics when the development of the nation is at stake. There will always be opportunity for political posturing, but until such time, we must join hands and work together in order to achieve any sort of successes for our country. This is the hallmark… of patriotism, and it is the legacy we want to leave,” he said.
“This… is so important for this country, I don’t think we’ll be seeing a bigger event in our country than this,” he added.
Speculation is rife that PM Mitchell will use the sporting event as the springboard to launch his bid for a recording breaking fifth term in office.
Sports Minister Roland Bhola pledged his government’s commitment to ensure that the games do not just become a success, but also the legacy that follows.
Minister Bhola noted that it is not worthwhile to have an event of that magnitude featuring international athletes with the expectation of having the stadium filled to capacity and just dies.
Events Organiser Dexter Mitchell who is the Chairman of the Local Organising Committee (LOC) for the event disclosed that have been agreed upon.
Tickets for the bleachers which seat 2,834 persons are $40.00, the main pavilion which can seat 950 persons will cost patrons $75.00 each.
There will be a VIP section overlooking the finish line with capacity for 288 persons going at the cost of $450.00 and this includes food and drinks for the duration of the games.
The designation area for the finish line “A” with a seating capacity of 189 costs $200.00, finish line “B” which seats 196 persons costs $150.00, and finish line “C” which caters for 203 persons is being sold at $100.00.
Tickets for the secondary stand with a population of 2,238 persons are being sold for $60.00.
Mitchell who is in charge of the marketing of the games was unable to provide the media with the amount of money being spent to host the Grenada Invitational track meet on the grounds that the budget is not yet finanlized.
“Quite frankly, I don’t have an exact cost yet, we have a separate finance sub-committee that is dealing with that so we’re still… putting the figures together. We’ve not confirmed all of the athletes as yet, so obviously there is a cost related to that,” he said.
Mitchell, however, disclosed that the elite athletes are being paid without going into details about the payment being provided to them.
He spoke of the IAAF having set the standards of what is paid to the top athletes, while the others will be awarded.
He indicated that the games are private sector-driven with private sponsors, and that some of the income will come from international broadcast rights combined with government’s funding, and ticket sales.
New York-based Grenadian Sports Journalist, Michael Bascombe whose is known to be the brainchild of the Invitational Meet pointed out that the intention is to have Grenada showcase a world-class event on the international circuit.
According to Bascombe, the discussions to have the games held in the Spice Isle started in 2011 at a function in New York involving a number of top local athletes likes Kirani James and Rondell Bartholomew.
“Because I reside in the Diaspora and because I understand the power of the Diaspora, and sports being a unifying factor among our people, especially the Diaspora, I could give a blanket guarantee that initiatives like these, the Grenada Invitational will be supported by the people in the Diaspora,” he said.
Bascombe stated that since the media launch for the event last October the momentum has picked up.
He is optimistic that the businesses that have come forward to provide financial assistance to the games will see some tangible results coming out of their sponsorship.
Public Relations Officer of the Grenada Athletics Association (GAA), Kwame Hypolite who also addressed the launch believes the Grenada Invitational will serve as a motivating factor to develop the young and budding local athletes who will see world famous Stars whom they read or hear about competing in front of their very eyes.
Hypolite said the GAA anticipates that the event will have a significant impact on the development of the sport in the region.
He stressed that the association’s mission is to continue the development of athletics in Grenada, and will continue to support any “genuine activity” and efforts which will lend itself to the furtherance of that goal.