Champs back to full strength
WITH THE COVID-19 pandemic in the rearview mirror, ISSA President Keith Wellington is hoping that this year’s staging of the ISSA/GraceKennedy Boys’ and Girls’ Athletic Championships (Champs) will match and surpass the 2019 edition.
Wellington was speaking at last night’s Champs media launch at the National Stadium just under two weeks before Kingston College and Edwin Allen begin the defence of their boys’ and girls’ titles.
For the past two years, Champs has been held with health protocols created in the height of the pandemic, with the 2021 edition held without spectators and last year allowing a limited number of fans to attend.
With the restrictions lifted, Wellington is hoping for a return of the capacity crowds his organisation is used to – last experienced in 2019.
“I hope it is not business as usual because we always want to improve on what we have done yesterday. But we are thrilled that we are at the point where it looks as if we can get back to, at least, where we were in 2019 in terms of the general atmosphere at Champs,” Wellington told The Gleaner.
“[Last night] has reinforced the idea that we are going back to Champs pre-COVID. And we hope that the production of what we would have done to execute for Champs will exceed what we did in 2019.”
One of those changes made amid the pandemic was the change of the competition schedule, highlighted by the 100m finals being moved to Wednesday instead of the usual Friday.
That change will remain, with Wellington seeing it is as beneficial to the athletes’ performances and long-term health. The ISSA president also sees that change as providing a holistic championship experience that the fans will appreciate.
“We are hoping that what we will see is improved performances as a result of that and that improved performance will drive spectators into the stadium every day of the championships and not just on the weekends,” Wellington said.
“We understand and accept the concept that the Friday and the Saturday evening sessions provide an opportunity for socialisation and for people to enjoy the meet. But all our events, we think, are attractive events that provide an opportunity for people to be entertained.”
It is with that mindset that he is hoping that having gone through a year of adjusting to the format, spectator support will increase over the full five days.
“The fan needs to have an appreciation for every athlete that participates at Champs, and I think that is the message that we are sending, and we are hoping that it gets through and that the fans will turn up and support athletes in every event, not just the 100m finals. But we think that the 100m is going to be special on Wednesday. And we think that if there is any year, it doesn’t matter which day the 100m is held on, it is going to be this year and people must come out and show they appreciate that event as well.”