Re-engineer our cross country races

As a sportsman who continues to be a fan of all sports, I am the last person to decry a sporting event. In the 1960s, when I participated in my school’s annual cross-country races that were run off on our main roads, it was relatively safe and hazard free.

We looked forward to the cross-country event each year. But fast forward to 2017, some fifty years later and picture this scenario.

Friday 1st December, the busiest day of the week plus it is end of the month and the busiest month of the year. Every possible vehicle was on the road as people are immersed in the getting ready for Christmas excitement.

On my way home to Morne Jaloux, I was confronted by a mass of school children running an official cross country race on the main road. The scene, at first glance, resembled carnival Tuesday last lap. It was probably a combined schools operation because of the large amount of participants.

The sun was hot, the children were competing enthusiastically, as is expected of them, using the entire roadway to run on. But being both competitive and tired, they sometimes drifted haplessly and without warning into the vehicular traffic stream. Some were so tired, that they flopped listlessly by the side of the road.

Anyone who drives on Grenada’s roads today would be aware that there are many more vehicles in operation as compared to years gone by. Traffic flow confusion, and driver ill- discipline that sometimes borders on outright mayhem is an integral factor of road usage in Grenada today.

Are we going to wait until an overwrought child is knocked down by a vehicle and killed before removing the sport of cross country from our main roads? Roads that are trafficked by too many cars and buses that are sometimes driven by irresponsible don’t give a damn if ash Wednesday falls on a Sunday, operators?

If cross country must be held on the roads, then the relevant authorities should utilise quiet off the beaten track vehicular scarce roadways, maybe “country roads,” to stage these events on.

The Lowthers Lane, Richmond Hill, Morne Jaloux, Springs, Belmont, Lagoon and Tanteen roadways, that seem to be the choice routes for cross country events, certainly do not fit this recommended category.

Why would the authorities choose such a day for a cross country race? As I submit this letter, I can well imagine the cries of the conservative minded in our midst who will say “nonsense, leave the thing on the road, this is how we know it”. But it is almost 2018 and the main roadways will only get busier.

In the final analysis, the choice is up to the Ministry of Education or whoever is responsible for staging sporting events, to reconsider. We can hang on to tradition as we knew it, or recognise that times have changed. We need to adapt, be proactive, and cater to change whenever it becomes a necessity.

I believe the time is overdue for re-engineering the cross country event to ensure that our school children’s safety and well-being remain paramount. Consider the term cross country. It suggests running through the countryside and not on public thoroughfares. Think about it. Also include in the thinking a solution for the littering that takes place, which is not the children’s fault but the organisers.

Roger Byer

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