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Thursday, June 30, 2022
HomeNewsArchivesYOUTH GAMES WRAP UP ON APOLOGETIC NOTE

YOUTH GAMES WRAP UP ON APOLOGETIC NOTE

In his invocation at the closing ceremony of the U.S. Youth Games Sunday evening, Pastor Reuben Veesup mentioned "chaos and nothingness." While the refererence wasn’t intentional, it certainly was apt.
The mere fact that 500 young athletes and their chaperones from five U.S. cities were able to assemble in the St. Croix Educational Complex auditorium Sunday to wrap up the 34th installment of the games was a miracle in itself. Just five days before, local organizers were facing nothing: no money, no opening ceremony, no transportation, no organization – nothing but a whole bunch of nothingness.
Except, of course, 500 visitors who expected competition. So out of nothing came chaos, and out of chaos the games were ultimately put on.
And while the young athletes fidgeted in their seats Sunday waiting to receive trophies – donated at the last minute by the V.I. Department of Tourism for $2,500 – adults apologized for or downplayed the "inconveniences."
"It was an exciting, adventurous, hectic six days, but whatever adjective you choose to describe the . . . experience, it was, if nothing else, interesting," said Ophelia Williams-Felix, a Department of Housing, Parks and Recreation employee who was pressed into service in the eleventh hour to guide the games. "If we could have gone back in time we would have changed everything that was an inconvenience to you." While the inconveniences were many – a cancelled opening ceremony, late-starting events, soggy sandwiches, an initial lack of transportation – not all was negative. Rocco Colabella, president of the V.I. Swimming Federation, said events Saturday at the Country Day School pool went swimmingly. The federation and the Dolphins and Marlins swim teams even held an awards picnic after the event, Colabella said.
"The kids swam very well," he said. "I think it was a positive event and we’d do it over again if we had to. It was not a problem."
The games were salvaged by last-minute donations by businesses. Hovensa paid for two Abramson Co. buses for three days while food and water was donated by a variety of other companies.
Oliver Washington, a coordinator with a team from Columbia, S.C., said local organizers never gave up despite the difficulties even though many of the visitors thought more could have been done.
"What I found was a glass that was nearly empty," Washington said, describing the state of local organization. "But every day . . . the resilience and determination of the great people of the Virgin Islands . . . filled that glass.
"No matter what anyone says, you came through like a true champion."
Hans Lawaetz, president of the V.I. Olympic Committee and a last-minute organizer of the games, said those who had pressed ahead with the games despite not having $400,000 in funding were "naïve." But only because they didn’t want to cancel after several of the teams, from Columbia, Boston, Birmingham, Ala., Newark and Washington, D.C. had put down deposits for travel and accommodations.
Although the Department of Tourism pledged to help teams with lodging and a deep discount on transportation from the airport, it ended up footing the $2,500 bill for awards, said Pamela Richards, assistant tourism commissioner.
"We did all that" and more, she said. "That was because we had to make this thing work. It’s for the Virgin Islands.
"Wherever we can help we do. But the community must understand what we can do. We can’t run somebody’s event for them."

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In his invocation at the closing ceremony of the U.S. Youth Games Sunday evening, Pastor Reuben Veesup mentioned "chaos and nothingness." While the refererence wasn’t intentional, it certainly was apt.
The mere fact that 500 young athletes and their chaperones from five U.S. cities were able to assemble in the St. Croix Educational Complex auditorium Sunday to wrap up the 34th installment of the games was a miracle in itself. Just five days before, local organizers were facing nothing: no money, no opening ceremony, no transportation, no organization – nothing but a whole bunch of nothingness.
Except, of course, 500 visitors who expected competition. So out of nothing came chaos, and out of chaos the games were ultimately put on.
And while the young athletes fidgeted in their seats Sunday waiting to receive trophies – donated at the last minute by the V.I. Department of Tourism for $2,500 – adults apologized for or downplayed the "inconveniences."
"It was an exciting, adventurous, hectic six days, but whatever adjective you choose to describe the . . . experience, it was, if nothing else, interesting," said Ophelia Williams-Felix, a Department of Housing, Parks and Recreation employee who was pressed into service in the eleventh hour to guide the games. "If we could have gone back in time we would have changed everything that was an inconvenience to you." While the inconveniences were many – a cancelled opening ceremony, late-starting events, soggy sandwiches, an initial lack of transportation – not all was negative. Rocco Colabella, president of the V.I. Swimming Federation, said events Saturday at the Country Day School pool went swimmingly. The federation and the Dolphins and Marlins swim teams even held an awards picnic after the event, Colabella said.
"The kids swam very well," he said. "I think it was a positive event and we’d do it over again if we had to. It was not a problem."
The games were salvaged by last-minute donations by businesses. Hovensa paid for two Abramson Co. buses for three days while food and water was donated by a variety of other companies.
Oliver Washington, a coordinator with a team from Columbia, S.C., said local organizers never gave up despite the difficulties even though many of the visitors thought more could have been done.
"What I found was a glass that was nearly empty," Washington said, describing the state of local organization. "But every day . . . the resilience and determination of the great people of the Virgin Islands . . . filled that glass.
"No matter what anyone says, you came through like a true champion."
Hans Lawaetz, president of the V.I. Olympic Committee and a last-minute organizer of the games, said those who had pressed ahead with the games despite not having $400,000 in funding were "naïve." But only because they didn’t want to cancel after several of the teams, from Columbia, Boston, Birmingham, Ala., Newark and Washington, D.C. had put down deposits for travel and accommodations.
Although the Department of Tourism pledged to help teams with lodging and a deep discount on transportation from the airport, it ended up footing the $2,500 bill for awards, said Pamela Richards, assistant tourism commissioner.
"We did all that" and more, she said. "That was because we had to make this thing work. It’s for the Virgin Islands.
"Wherever we can help we do. But the community must understand what we can do. We can’t run somebody’s event for them."