Looking beyond the Island Games

Matters of The Moment

The best performance and results for the country can only be obtained when the political class and those manning all the key posts of the government Establishment and government institutions as well as the private sector are chosen amongst the brightest and most qualified 

By Mrinal Roy

Since the inception of the Indian Ocean Island games in 1979, Mauritius has, for the first time in 40 years, registered a thumping victory and comfortably topped the medals table of the 10th edition of the games held in Mauritius from 19-28 July 2019. Every day, throughout the games, our athletes unwaveringly carried the colours of Mauritius high in every discipline and in every sporting event in contention. This is evidenced by the rich harvest of 92 gold medals out of a total of 224 medals garnered by Team Mauritius in diverse sports disciplines and in disabled sports.

The people in their plural diversity stood shoulder to shoulder as one in support of all our athletes as they competed valiantly and fairly in every event of the games to win a continuously increasing cornucopia of medals. The national flag was omnipresent and proudly waived in the stadiums hosting the various competitions and across the country as a proud symbol of the nation’s sense of ownership and pride at the remarkable performance of the Mauritian athletes at the games.

There was a potent communion between the Mauritian athletes and the nation which spurred our athletes to excel even more. Their victories and medals were our own. They were proudly celebrated as heroes by the nation.

It must be said that sports and the patriotic spirit driving the nation’s unstinted support to the athletes and teams representing their country in international sporting competitions are extremely potent unifying forces. This is patently evident in international sporting events such as the Olympics or the football World Cup.

The brilliant success of our athletes is the result of the synergies of their hard work and assiduous training under the guidance of competent coaches in world class training facilities as well as the support of their sporting federations, the government and the nation. Success can only be obtained if the country chooses the best athletes making the cut in terms of merit and performance, benchmarked on the best international norms prevailing, to represent the country. The wider opportunities and training facilities provided in the country have also led to the emergence of new sporting talent from across the country in a broad range of sports disciplines and opened up sports such as sailing and golf. New sports such as archery and fencing are being developed. Significantly more needs to be done.

There were also some sore disappointments at the games. International competition is not only about winning but also about learning from losses and setbacks. Our national football team has earned the respect of the nation. It will learn from the final and come back stronger.

Source of inspiration

Beyond the laurels, the kudos and the plaudits, the success of Mauritius in international sporting events is also a source of inspiration for the young to take up sports as an essential element of a healthy and balanced life or at competitive level. A regular sporting activity is the most robust bulwark against social ills such as drugs. Anyone practising a sport at competitive level knows that high level sports means getting rid of everything which is detrimental to one’s fitness and stamina such as smoking.

The pursuit of gold in international sports, however, requires grooming the best sporting talents of the country to the highest benchmarks of performance as well as dedication, hard work, lots of sacrifice, mental strength, determination, a winning spirit and a focus on excellence. It is equally important to professionalize the sports federations, induct the qualified trainers and coaches required to improve and benchmark the performance of our athletes and teams to prevailing international norms. This means arrangements for training placements and sessions abroad to continuously improve techniques and performance to competitive international levels as well as continue investing in world class facilities so as to provide the best conditions necessary for our athletes and national teams to excel.

However, the pursuit of excellence in sports by the young athlete can cause conflict with parents if it is perceived as being at the expense of higher studies to assure a gainful and secure career. It is therefore important that appropriate accompanying measures are put in place which comfort top athletes on their future and assure their employment after their sporting career. Such measures should also include arranging for sports scholarships in specialized colleges or universities enabling high calibre sportsmen to pursue higher studies while at the same time honing their performance in their respective sporting disciplines.

There is no place for amateurism, nepotism, cronyism or political meddling in the pursuit of high level sports. Participating in international sporting events such as the Olympics or the Commonwealth Games is serious business. It means preparing and honing our athletes to the prevailing benchmark of performance required to compete with the best in every sporting discipline. It above all means significantly upping our act. Official delegations should comprise sports professionals and certainly no longer include a cohort of officials or the coterie. Despite our participation in the Commonwealth Games which are held every four years since 1958, our first medals were only obtained at the 1998 games. The only Olympics medal obtained by Mauritius was a bronze medal obtained by Bruno Julie in boxing at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

It is however important that the athletes who have excelled at international competitions not only be a source of inspiration for young athletes but also help through their experience promote their discipline and strengthen their sporting federations. It is therefore a shame and contrary to the lofty values championed by sports that Bruno Julie who should be honoured as a sports icon was not even invited to attend the opening ceremony of the Island games.

The country now needs to build on the Island games triumph to mobilize and groom our athletes to reach new heights of success at more competitive international sporting events such as the forthcoming African games, next year’s Olympics in Tokyo and the Commonwealth games in Birmingham in 2022.

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Lessons from sports

The country’s success at the Island games also provides some crying object lessons for the government and the political class at large. They must learn yet again from the enthusiastic and unequivocal support of the people from across the country to all our athletes that we are a nation since a long time despite the divisive agendas of politicians and those who remain trapped in their own hangovers and fixations of the past.

As is the case in sports, the best performance and results for the country can only be obtained when the political class and those manning all the key posts of the government Establishment and government institutions as well as the private sector are chosen amongst the brightest and most qualified cadres and talents of the country and that their synergies are harnessed for the common good. Not to do so urgently basically condemns the country to continue to be bogged down in the doldrums of underperformance. For too long, the country has been shortchanged and its prospects systematically undermined.

Despite the writing on the wall getting bolder by the day, the government does not seem to learn from past blunders and botched decisions to take the urgent steps necessary to significantly beef up the decision making process and good governance in the country. Every week seems to bring its load of disconcerting decisions and appalling news.

Over the last week, despite the decried Alvaro Sobrinho episode, it is reported that a questionable South African investor allegedly charged with serious criminal offences in his country has been granted a residence permit by the authorities. Are due diligence exercises on investors still not carried out with the highest rigour? The share value of the State Commercial Bank where the State is a major shareholder has fallen by 28% in a year in the wake of impairment provisions of some Rs 3.6 billion made by the bank to cover its risky exposure on loans granted, thus adversely affecting shareholders. The Mauritian financial jurisdiction has again been under attack, last week, in what is disparagingly labelled the ‘Mauritius leaks’ which are a trove of 200,000 files leaked by a whistleblower from a law firm domiciled in Mauritius.

Moral interrogations

Beyond the polemic which is raging on the ‘Mauritius Leaks’, we must remember that Mauritius and its beleaguered financial services sector cannot afford to be again portrayed in a bad light. The core issue is that the narrative and charge hammered in by the ‘Mauritius Leaks’ investigation that a law firm operating in the Mauritian financial jurisdiction is allegedly depriving governments in India, Arab and African countries of tax revenue is extremely damaging to the standing and repute of our financial services sector. The charge is being levelled from a moral high ground. We must remember that perception is more potent than legality or communiqués.

In a sector as sensitive as the financial services sector, its standing, reputation and the rigour of its overseeing institutions are of paramount importance and essential to its success. With a declining sugar and manufacturing sector and competitive pressures on tourism, the country cannot allow the repute of the financial services sector to be blemished yet again. Knee-jerk reactions to criticisms will not do. This important sector cannot be vulnerable to attacks. It is therefore high time that the financial services sector is aligned to the highest international standards and best practices prevailing in the world through a review of the legislative framework and a more rigorous oversight and management of the sector.

We must also bear in mind that with widening inequality and the huge concentration of wealth in the world generated by a flawed and increasingly contested economic model, the morality of economic and financial decisions is also coming under scrutiny and is being more and more questioned by the multitude. The current world order and the insatiable greed for more at the expense of growing inequality, the environment, a fair sharing of the fruits of prosperity or planet Earth through the havoc wreaked by climate change are being strongly contested.

Fair Trade norms in Agriculture and trade thus aim at ensuring that producers receive a fair share of the sale of their produce. Ethical marketing aims at ensuring products benefit socially responsible and environmental causes. Carbon taxes on polluting industries and polluters aim at cutting down carbon emissions and halting the dire fallouts of climate change on planet Earth and the future of the young. Environment taxes aim at safeguarding the environment against wanton depredation, protect biodiversity and assure sustainable development. Organic farming aims at protecting people’s health, nature and vital resources such as water. Not to pay heed to these game changing developments and moral interrogations is fraught with risks of a potent backlash against those in power.


* Published in print edition on 2 August 2019

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