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19930525_Malta's moment of truth arrives

    The greatest ever sporting event to be held in Malta - the Games for European Small States - gets underway today with what is being described as a colourful spectacle of pageantry, music and fireworks at the national stadium, Ta' Qali, at 8 p.m.
    It is a dream come true for all sportsmen in Malta, especially those who still believed, until a few months ago, that Malta would not be capable of staging such a big event.
    To tell the truth, I also had some doubts about the facilities, but one must acknowledge the great efforts gone into by the government and the organising committee not only in completing the facilities on schedule, but also in providing first class facilities, which should be rated among the best in Europe at the moment.
    International Standard
    Today, I can say how clever it was for Malta to bid to stage the Games at this particular moment.  As it is, I may safely say that thanks to these Games, we now have facilities of an acceptable international meetings, apart from local competitions.
    The Games, now in their fifth edition, are growing in stature and the Malta edition is no exception. I have been present in all previous four editions - San Marino, Monaco, Cyprus and Andorra - and I can safely say that from what I have seen so far both in the results obtained by the athletes, as well as the organisation.
    I have no doubt that the organisational abilities of the Maltese will come to the fore in these Games.
    Even if we have never organised an event on such a large scale, however, we have always come out with flying colours, and I am sure that  the government, the Malta Olympic Committee and the Organising Committee, have left no stone unturned in their efforts to make this event a huge success.
    The government has, as already said provided excellent facilities, the Malta Olympic Committee was instrumental in bringing the Games over to Malta, while the Organising Committee seems to have the greatest task of all - seeing to the smooth running of the Games.
    This is certainly Malta's moment of truth. But we have to show everyone that we are not only capable of doing  miracles of work such as the swimming pool and the athletics track. We must show everyone that we are also capable of organising such events and, most of all, we must all show improvement in the sports disciplines being practised here.
    It is unfair to say that our athletes should do better now that they are enjoying new facilities. These have been provided but athlete stage, However,  one cannot say that our athletes were not preparing themselves.
    Personal Sacrifices
    They have managed through several personal sacrifices to be at their best during this week. Most of them missed several hours of study to get in trim. Others worked harder than ever before. All had one aim in mind - to do their best in the name of Malta and possibly win some medal, whether it be gold, silver or bronze.
    Whether they will win medals or not during these five days it still to be seen. Little do we know what progress our opponents have passed through in the last two years. We only hope that of our opponents and perhaps will do even better because of the fact that they will be performing on home soil.
    Our athletes need encouragement. And even here we must show that we are a mature country in sport. The sporting public should be behind the Maltese at every venue. It is through the encouragement (especially with its presence) of the public that our athletes will make greater efforts to register success at these Games.
    Usually, in the past four editions, it was noted that the public is mostly partisan, especially in the team events. I am not clamouring for such partisanship. What we need it total encouragement for the Malta athletes so that there will be able to rise to the occasion.
    On the other hand, the athletes must show total commitment of they are to entertain hopes of success in these Games.
    Certain recent events, however, showed that not even sport may be used as a means of reconciliation, at times. I am referring, of course, to the ridiculous situation in local cycling, where a new local association has been established to rival the federation with the inevitable consequence that some of the best cyclists are not available for these Games.
    Despite several comments in our columns and in the broadcasting media and despite the efforts of the Malta Olympic Committee to break the impasse, the dispute was not solved. As it is, the rival association which is not affiliated to the Olympic Committee, failed in its bid to take part in the Games.... to the detriment of those cyclists in its ranks who had a good chance of making a name for themselves and their country!
    What a pity such a situation could not be solved in time.
    in the other sport disciplines one sincerely wishes our past tennis heroes, Helen Asciak and Carol Curmi, to repeat the fare they provided in the past three editions - they dominated the doubles event in Monaco Cyprus and Andorra to take gold. In fact, so far, they are the only Maltese to have won gold in there Small Nations Games. 
    Swimming could also provide local followers with a spate of new records for a 50-metre course by the young Maltese squad. This will not be an easy task, however, We are well aware of the strength of the Icelandic and Cypriot contingents, who usually dominate in this field. But we expect the female squad, at least, to figure well, and also win some medals.
    Another sport in which I hope that our athletes will figure admirably is shooting. We have been mostly unlucky in international competitions of this kind. The locals have been training very hard, almost every weekend, throughout the past eight months, and they seem to be in good form at the moment. I am sure that the new range will help to improve their standards, although they ought to have the right conditions  on the day of the event.
    Athletics should also provide some new records from the Maltese athletes. Our hopes rely mainly on Gerald DeGaetano, a pas silver and bronze medal winner at the Games,  and Carol Galea, who has reached her peak at a veteran age. But other athletes like Deirdre Caruana, Alexander Crech, Tristan Meadow, Jennifer Pace Hickey, Kevin Tonna and Elaine Zammit, apart from the relay teams, could all spring the delight of the local sporting family.
    Another sport in which we have been mainly unlucky if that of yachting, especially the broadsailing section, where the gold medal has been eluding them on each occasion. The time seems to be ripe enough for our sailors to win gold....on their own merits and on their own waters!.
    More determination
    The judo squad is in Gozo, where the event is being held on Friday. Laurie Pace leads our hopes for gold in this sport, but this contingent needs to show more determination than they did in the recent Games in Tunis if they are to leave a good impression.
    In basketball, our men's team is aiming for a medal, while the ladies team, after their unsuccessful participation in Andorra, will be looking forward for an improvement, especially with the inclusion of the eligible Algerian and Bulgarian girls - and added boost to their line-up. 
    The same could be said for volleyball, although here even the men must show considerable improvement over past showings to be able to leave a good impression.
    All in all, 134 athletes will be representing Malta during this five-day festival of sport. We all know and admit that it will be difficult to win in every discipline, but it is not impossible either. Let us all keep our fingers crossed that Malta will reap its best dividends so far in these Games!