Belize City. The New Year has begun the same way the old one ended – more murders, more misery, more depressing media reports. And, even more depressing, there is news of yet more corruption within the machinery of Government. At this stage now I think Belizeans should stop wishing for a Happy New Year because right now it certainly doesn't seem like it's going to be happy, not at all, especially for our youth!
Our youth cannot rely on Government – the latest news about the PUC and media reports about questionable contract awarding practices only go to demonstrate that the machinery of Government is incapable of acting with integrity and honesty. In retrospect, high crime and corruption is good for Government – it allows politicians to make election promises to deal with both, and then do nothing, so that the hope of better government is always just an election away. This now seems to extend to the Police Department; citizens have lost faith in the ability of the Police to keep us safe. And who do the Police report too? Government.
So, what can be done? What hope is there, especially for our youth? How can we expect adolescents to act responsibly, if responsible adults are acting like adolescents?
There are many studies and reports from right around the world that suggest investment in sports is key to engaging youth in positive activities and away from a life of crime and gang-related anti-social activities. Not surprisingly, the one area in which Government has failed to make any significant investment is sports and recreational amenities for youth and sports. Now, I know some people will say "What about the new Sports stadiums appearing around the country?", "What about the new Civic Centre?", "What about the Marion Jones Sports Complex?" My response is, these are in low-crime areas of the country. Nothing significant in Belize City. You can't count the Marion Jones – that after all is named after a drugs cheat, has an unsafe running track and remains incomplete after more than 15 years and the new Civic Centre is a civic center not exclusively a sports amenity.
Belize City still has no all-weather outdoor football / rugby / softball / volleyball fields. We have no tennis courts, no athletics facilities, no water sports facilities and too few significant open spaces for youth to play sports.
Furthermore, there are no organized multi-sports events – other than school sports days – in which youth can get together from across the City / Country for competitions or just to try out different sports. Nothing. Sports and sport facilities have been ignored for too long.
I call upon the ministry for sports to actually start doing something about sports instead of just opening buildings which are inadequate and limited in use. Invest in new and upgrade existing outdoor sports playing fields, and empower the national sports council to really fulfill its remit as the national sports coordinating body. Actually, why not give the sports council an actual Sports Council? That might be a step in the right direction. I call upon the people of Belize to seriously consider how they too can make a difference in the lives of the youth by getting involved in sports program around the country, to encourage youth to participate and get into something other than gangs. Citizens need to set the example where politicians have failed.
Tony GillingsFounder, Rugby Belize