The annual CARIFTA Games, a gathering of the best junior athletes in the Caribbean, will take place April 3 through 5 in the Cayman Islands at the Truman Boddon Sports Complex in George Town.
Athletes, coaches and managers from member countries of CARIFTA (Caribbean Free Trade Association), a 25-nation Caribbean body, will converge on the island of Grand Cayman for some keen competition. Adding to the mix are numerous colleges coaches from the US, who will be there as scouts, as well as supporters from the Caribbean and international communities. The Games, which began in 1972, was last held in the Cayman in 1995. Caribbean TrackLife spoke with the president of the Cayman Islands Athletics Association (CIAA), Rayle Roberts, the man responsible for coordinating the event.
“Despite the financial constraints, things are going very well,” Roberts said. “We are under the guns to make this event a success. We had limited time…most countries have one to two years to prepare for the Games, we had only eight to nine months.”
Roberts outlined his objective for hosting this year’s Games: “The CIAA is hoping to raise the level of CARIFTA to a higher standard and there is a lot that goes into it achieving this,” he said. Roberts further explained that this is the first time that the Games will be televised to all the Caribbean islands as well as outside the region. “We are busy doing promotions and advertisements; we have a Facebook account and our CIAA Web site is blowing up,” he noted.
The leading CIAA man also said that there is much hype surrounding the Games and that local interest should be ignited when the flags and banners go up this week.
Hotels Booked Solid
One of the challenges, he said, is that Cayman is a tourist destination and with so many visitors expected for the Games, space is limited and hotels are running low on rooms. “Most hotels are now booked solid,” he said. “We are expecting approximately 500 athletes and lots of spectators. We have three chartered planes coming in.”
The Games consist of most of the track & field events involving running, jumping and throwing and has two age-group categories: Under-17 and Under-20 for both male and female competitors.
Hundreds of former and current stars in the region have competed at CARIFTA and a significant number of them have gone on to win Olympic and World Championships medals. Among them are: Merlene Ottey, Veronica Campbell, Usain Bolt, Melanie Walker (Jam); Kim Collins (St. Kitts); Darrel Brown (T&T); Pauline Davis-Thompson, Debbie Ferguson (Bah); Obadele Thompson (B’dos); Cydonie Mothersill, Kareem Streete-Thompson (Cay), Alleyne Francique (Gren), Marie Jose-Perec, Christine Aaron (Guadeloupe & France).
Powerhouse Jamaica has dominated the Games over the decades, topping the medal standings for 25 consecutive years. Made up primarily of countries from the English-speaking Caribbean, the Games include French-speaking nations but has no Spanish-speaking member, hence the absence of Cuba and Puerto Rico.