World's Best Meet by Clayton Clarke (TT) A sports meet starting at mid-day? In the blazing sun in this dry season? “Nah. De crazy oh what”. I could not believe it but still I made my way down to the Elquemedo Willett Park, in Charlestown, Nevis on 24th March. When I arrived persons were trickling in. I said to myself, “ah thought ah hear how it does have bout 5,000 people coming to dis games. Where de people and dem?” As I entered the main gate the security guard was already in place scanning and searching. I said “What! Dese people taking dis sports serious”. I walked past the many vendors setting up for the day activities. I made my way up the incline to the grounds. Up on the hill I saw the orange, yellow, green, blue and other colours of the competing schools radiating out from under the tents. I walked over to where they were and saw the eager anticipation on their faces. I also noticed that teachers and parents were also prepared for the day. They were armed with water, drinks, food. Some had pom-poms, camera and face paint.
Finally the march past was about the start. The children made their way down onto the field. They lined up and did some final rehearsing. Teachers were on the sides ensuring that the teams were lined up in order at arms length. Some flag bearers were taken through their final paces with the eyes right. The crowd continued to come in, many in the shade of the covered stands and up under the trees on the eastern side. The Drum core struck up the music and the teams were marching. The colours shone out resplendently under the hot Caribbean sun. The nine schools paraded before the dignitaries including the Premier, the Honourable Joseph Parry and the Chairman of Gulf Insurance, Mr. Gerard Lee Inniss in his inaugural visit.
With all the formalities coming to an end it was down to the action. Spectators were now in position and I was still wondering “how could 5,000 persons fit in dis grounds?” Well I tell you, the heat of the day made some spectators really hot. They wanted to know to why de march past took so long to start. They were more eager than the children.
The crowd kept building and I didn’t have much difficulty identifying the supporters by their colours. I saw lots of orange and I wondered why. I soon found out that orange was the colour of the defending champion Charlestown Primary which was located nearby. So the Champs were in the hometown of the school. The supporters really took their support to heart. There was on man dress in purple from hat to shoe with an accompanying flag. Another was draped in orange. But the best of all were the two clowns. Or should I say twin clowns. They decked in orange complete with wig and nose. It could not better than that. As I looked around the ground I saw every colour. I saw green in batches, yellow in droves, baby blues in the stands, royal blues on the hill.
I was sitting at the finish line and behind me I was enlightened on the chances of the competitors. Whenever a race was completed this passionate lady dared any of the winners to run against her son. She was sure no one could have beaten him. From time to time I looked back to see who was this guru of the Nevis Primary school championships.
The races continued apace. The action was non-stop and the drama was amazing. You saw the grimace on the faces as two athletes battled across the line. The spectators too sighed and awed as if they too were in the race. They, of course, gave their own version of the races.
Before mid afternoon I saw no space in the stands to sit neither on the bleachers behind the finish line. There was standing room only. The fences around the grounds were pushed to their limits as spectators sought to make use of every vantage point around the grounds. As the athletes ran by I saw the flags, the balloons, umbrellas, you name it, up in the air. From the colours you knew who they were supporting.
The close finishes really took the fans into a frenzy. They were cheering. It seems as though when a race was exciting they all were in support. I guess each one had a participant in the race and that is all that matters to gather support.
By the time the 100m began the place was rammed and crammed. As I looked around I saw the look of anticipation on the faces, saying “this is what we wait for each year. We are not going to miss this for the world”. And I guess the Nevis Island Administration got a hint of that and declare a half day holiday for the meet.
There could not have been a more exciting end to this year’s championship. With one event to go, the top two teams, defending champions Charlestown and Jocelyn Liburd were separated by less than five points. The result of the boys 4 x400m relays would determine this year’s winner. St. Thomas took an early lead with Jocelyn Liburd in second ahead of Charlestown. Jocelyn Liburd made a bad final change over and Charlestown was ahead. The crowd responded to every change in position. St. Thomas went on the win the race with Charlestown in second ahead of Jocelyn. The tension was now felt around the ground. Jocelyn Liburd students and supporters could not wait on the official report. They began dancing and running around the field in celebration. Somehow they knew they had done it because they did by just two point scoring 182. St. Thomas was some way back in third on 160. The purple of Jocelyn was spread all over the grounds as their supporters jumped and pranced in ecstasy.
The massive crowd, of over 5,000 enthusiastic and colourful spectators - nearly 1/2 of the population of some 12,000 inhabitants of the island on Nevis, swelled by overseas spectators from St. Kitts and the surrounding islands - which must indeed be a world record for attendance at a sports meet or any activity (per capita).
World's Best Meet? Well that's debatable but it sure was one of the best meets I have ever attended ... the atmosphere, the excitement, the pure competition, the social event, the rich variety of local foods ... I surely endorse it to all readers of this article. See you next year - I think you will agree with me.
Gulf Insurance Chairman presents Championship trophy
Note: The meet was streamed "live" on the Internet, "live" on two radio stations, "live" on local TV, "live" results and photofinish pictures were posted to the website, "live" blogging, "live" chat room, "live" interviews, near real time meet & crowd photos were posted to the website during the meet and more.