Minister Bowleg points his Ministry’s Way Forward in Sports

Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture the Hon. Mario Bowleg speaks concerning sports initiatives in his Ministry, during his Contribution in the House of Assembly, on November 3, 2021. (BIS Photo / Eric Rose)

From: Bahamas Information Services

During his Contribution on the Speech from the Throne, in the House of Assembly, on November 3, 2021, Min. of Youth, Sports and Culture the Hon. Mario Bowleg noted that his government recognized the capacity of sports to deliver “a sense of deep spirituality because it emanates from a natural impulse for freedom, symbolic meaning and the pursuit of perfection, with the recognition that sports delivers healthy bodies and fresh minds”.

“My Ministry, in consistency with this Administration’s ideology, will seek the support of stakeholders to make contributions for the success of sports,” Minister Bowleg said. “For this reason, we will immediately seek the reactivation of the National Sports Advisory Council. Like wise, there will come the re-institution of Family Island Sports Councils; whereby, persons on the ground in their respective communities are able to bring new innovative ideas for the growth and development of sports throughout the country.”

Minister Bowleg pointed out that his My Ministry would seek to establish a pension fund for athletes who have represented the country internationally. This would not exclude the Funding for training for aspirants to elite sports status, he added. “Our Blueprint for Change is quite clear,” Minister Bowleg said.

He also noted that the relaunch of “Sports in Paradise”, to encourage major international sporting federations and leagues to utilize The Bahamas as a base, was a priority to his Ministry and the Government of The Bahamas.

“In our Blueprint for Change, we talk about revitalizing, reestablishing the ‘Sports in Paradise’ brand, a brand which so easily describes the fantasy of playing any sport here in The Bahamas,” Minister Bowleg said.

“My Ministry will partner with the various Sporting Federations, National Sport Authority, and the Ministry of Tourism to formulate strategies of a plan for success,” he added. “Madam Speaker we will leverage the power of the world’s top athletes’ brands, to be included in ‘Sports in Paradise’ product.

Minister Bowleg said that his Ministry had begun preliminary discussions on steps to be taken that would be necessary to secure the return of the IAAF World Relays to The Bahamas.

“We have learned that the next opportunity to host these exciting races is not until 2025,” he said. “This means that we should have sufficient time to assess a feasibility study of the venture and, if satisfied, devise a strategic plan capable of guaranteeing not only our success in submitting a winning bid, but ensuring its cost effectiveness to the government and people of the Bahamas.”

Minister Bowleg said that his Ministry will also invite the various sporting disciplines to involve both college and professional teams in its sports calendar of events.

He stated that, in the spirit of unity and showcasing the nation’s “sports might”, his Ministry will seek to create the Annual Island Games for each island, and the relaunching of the Bahamas Games to be held every three years.

“Of immediate attention, my Ministry continues to advance plans for hosting the sixth edition of The Bahamas Games, which is being planned as the Golden Jubilee Games in July 2023 to coincide and commemorate the 50th Anniversary of our country’s independence,” Minister Bowleg said.

“My Ministry is convinced that the Bahamas Games promote the kind of social and cultural integration that enhances nation building,” he added. “Indeed, the unique atmosphere generated by the representative assembly of all-Bahamian athletes and coaches, their team attendants and their ardent supporters, collectively combine to create lifelong memories and friendships between the scattered Island communities of The Bahamas.”

Minister Bowleg pointed out that the added value attached to previous Games was reflected in the early detection of abundant world-class athletic talent resident in the Family Islands. The best indicator of that, he added was the eventual involvement of Family Island athletes, World and Olympic Championship gold-medal-winning teams, including the recent performances of Steven Gardiner and Shaunae Miller-Uibo.

“By no coincidence, for these exploits, the Ministry awarded these stellar athletes with performance incentive cash awards of $40,000 for Mr. Gardiner, and Mrs. Miller-Uibo,” Minister Bowleg said. “Additional $5,000 has been awarded to Ms. Devynne Charlton, as a first-time Olympian who successfully advanced to the finals of her event in the 100m hurdles. These incentives, the Ministry hopes, will continue to keep them motivated to perform, while serving to inspire others to reach similar goals.

“My Ministry therefore seeks to revive the Bahamas Games as a matter of national interest, and as an impetus for greater national cohesion.” Minister Bowleg said that his Ministry intends to seek the support of the government to address the shortage of proper sports facilities in the Family Islands by mounting a multi-million dollar sports facilities development plan over a ten-year span, commencing within the next budget cycle.

“The ultimate goal, here, is to empower young Family Island athletes with the ability to hone their skills and maximize their potential from the comfort and convenience of their respective Islands,” he said.

“The Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture, it should be noted, reflects the spirit of our nation and expresses the extent of the resilience that characterizes the Bahamian people from Bimini in the north to lnagua in the south.” Turning his attention to baseball, Minister Bowleg noted that local baseball development leagues continue to provide a strong foundational base of training for Bahamian youth.

“International baseball leagues have taken note and increasing numbers of our young athletes are being recruited into the professional leagues creating economic opportunities like no other for them,” he said. “For this reason, my Ministry will continue to work closely with the Ministry of Works to complete the Andre Rodgers Baseball Stadium in the fastest means possible.”

“Professional sporting events provide much needed economic benefits, to both athlete and country,” he added. “Equally important, they also provide community pride and national unity.” Minister Bowleg pointed out that the month of November is celebrated as ‘Sports Heritage Month’, this year’s theme is: ‘Chasing Dreams and Achieving Excellence’. He noted that it was during that month that his Ministry recognizes the many outstanding contributions of athletes of today and the heroes of yesterday.

“Today’s athletes we would like to recognize are Jazrado Chisholm, Michael Strachan, Kia Jones, Chivano ‘Buddy’ Hield, DeAndre Ayton, Jonquel ‘JJ’ Jones, Steven Gardiner and Shaunae Miller-Uibo,” he added.

“The athletes of yesteryears — Lavern Eve, Oral Hudson, Joe Demeritte, William Thompson, Charles Thompson, Stella Knowles, Gena Mackey, Nell Wildgoose – Russell, Sheila Culmer, and deceased, Bert Bell and Barbara Thompson — are to be celebrated with induction into the National Sports Hall of Fame.”

Minister Bowleg continued: “I want to pause for a moment just to respectfully remember some of the sporting stalwarts we would have lost this year, through varying circumstances and to let their families and their communities know that they may be gone, but certainly not forgotten, for the tremendous contribution each has made to the development of sports in this country: Bert Bell, Sue Colebee, John Bradley, Peter ‘Macaroni’ Gilcud, Ed Armbrister, Coach Sherman Smith and Jackie Wright come to mind.”

Minister Bowleg said that the National Governing Bodies for sports play an important role in facilitating the development of their respective disciplines.

“Therefore, where possible, the government, through my Ministry continues to provide as much assistance, both technically and financially, as we can,” Minister Bowleg said.

“Currently, we provide near $500,000 in grant funds to registered and administratively compliant sports federations to assist with their various programs, and continue providing direct and indirect financial assistance to athletes in 11 sports in the amount of $1.4 million.”