Comment: Enjoy the Commonwealth Games perks, but don't not forget why we’re here

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IF the opening ceremony for the 2022 Commonwealth Games is a marker of what is to come on the field of play over the next eight days, we are all in for a treat. No matter where you’re watching from.

It was a show that will live long in the memory; not just because of its celebration of West Midlands heritage and cultures – featuring a stunning, ten-metre tall mechanical bull – but also because of its celebration of inclusivity in all walks of life.

And because Jersey, once again, played a central role as one of the 72 territories of the Commonwealth.

Having been fortunate enough to secure a seat in Alexander Stadium for the show, I was able to see the stage our sportsmen and women are aiming for every four years and consider the importance of it to their careers.

However, I also took time to consider just what is required to reach such a stage – and how precarious our athletes’ stance could become if they are not supported by those who run our Island.

Chief Minister Kristina Moore was in attendance on Jersey’s behalf and Deputy Lucy Stephenson – handed political responsibility for Island sport just last week – had travelled to the city to meet her Commonwealth counterparts. External Relations Minister Philip Ozouf did the same for a business forum.

The timing of these engagements could hardly have been better: at the start of a four-year political term, what could be more valuable than a personal insight into the pinnacle of Caesarean sport? Their trip will have provided important political networking opportunities, of course, but it should also have given the trio – still settling into their new roles within the States Chamber – an early sense of just how important competitive sport is to the community.

For most, if not all of Jersey’s athletes, the Commonwealth Games stands at the top of the tree in terms of Island representation and journeys to the likes of Birmingham (and the Australian state of Victoria, in 2026) are long and arduous. For most, those journeys begin at a young age, at grassroots level. For most, they bring great pride, a sense of fulfilment, elevated wellbeing. For others, if not backed properly, they will lead elsewhere.

It is a nice perk of the political job, being offered the chance to experience the party atmosphere and see one of the nation’s most iconic bands, Duran Duran, live. Particularly so soon after being elected. But it is vital that our Deputies do not just take the occasion at face value and forget one of the key reasons they were there.

The sport. The athletes. The future.

Sport has long been viewed as the ugly duckling when it comes to Island politics (just look at the recent loss of numerous development-officer roles; and how clubs and associations were treated throughout the pandemic, with ever-changing and/or significantly delayed protocols for their return to action), but with a new government comes an opportunity for further improvement. Yes, support has grown significantly in recent years – not least through a promised decade-long, £100million facility-improvement package – but those in charge must adopt a proactive approach to ensure ground is not lost.

Continued funding (and lots of it) is needed to ensure Jersey continues to produce athletes capable of holding their own on the world stage and, in Deputy Stephenson – a former JEP journalist accustomed to challenging power – we have someone capable of fighting for it. She will likely face frequent opposition while attempting to convince her colleagues of that need for funding but, hopefully, she will at least have our Chief Minister on her side.

If a first-hand experience of the Commonwealth Games (with bells and whistles sounding loudly) cannot inspire them to take bold and meaningful action to promote sport and physical activity in Jersey, then nothing will.

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