SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — In September, Hurricanes Irma and Maria ripped through the Caribbean. Only one word describes the two storms: catastrophic.
There is the financial toll. In Puerto Rico, estimates are it may cost as much as $95 billion to recover. That’s billion with a b.
The structural. It’s already three months-plus since September. Yet basics such as electricity and internet service, for instance, are hardly a given in many of the string of islands lashed by the storms. The first time Steve Augustine, president of the British Virgin Islands track and field federation, had seen a working television since September was Sunday night here in San Juan, when he arrived for a Monday meeting.
Post-storm: surveying the damage at the track at the British Virgin Islands // IAAF
The emotional. Godwin Dorsette, from Dominica, broke down in tears at that very meeting. “I’m a brave man. I’m a very strong person,” he said. “But I was afraid.”
Across the Caribbean, track and field is unquestionably a — if not the — leading sport. With that in mind, the sport’s global governing body, the International Associaton of Athletics Federations, on Tuesday announced a $500,000 “solidarity fund” aimed at helping those member federations that were pounded by Irma and Maria and, as well, by Hurricanes Harvey and Jose.
In comparison with numbers such as $95 billion, $500,000 is, as IAAF president Seb Coe said time and again here Monday, “modest.”
Even so, it is leadership in action.
It is also, to be clear, a call to action.
The Olympic world likes to call itself a “family.” This is particularly true within track and field — extending beyond to cross-country, marathon, fun-running and even slow-go jogging.
What is the No. 1 rule of family? It’s obvious: when someone needs help, who steps up, and first? Family.
Yet for these same several months, apart from this developing IAAF initiative, who has taken significant action to help in the Caribbean?
So what is it — overall disaster fatigue?
Is it little to no press or publicity of the full reach and extent of what happened way out there in the Atlantic? Or willful disinterest in finding out?
Kudos to Seiko for contributing to the $500,000. How is it, though, that the several other corporate concerns who claim to be so thoroughly invested in track or the broader running scene have themselves not announced similar fundraising initiatives?
If not in precisely this sort of context, what does “corporate social responsibility” mean?
Several of these American companies are based in blue states and, given the combative stance the White House has taken in connection with Puerto Rican recovery, would seemingly have been handed an easy political and marketing score with a willing consumer base. But — what?
“Sports represents a way of therapy to release all the stress we are going through,” Betito Márquez, the mayor of Toa Baja, a western suburb of San Juan, said Monday afternoon, projecting to be heard over the drone of whirring fans at a community center that had been converted into a FEMA outpost.
Source: Alan Abrahamson