Cayman’s track and field athletes are a hard working bunch; their haul of international medals over the years has proven that. They generally get a medal or two at the annual Carifta Championships, which is always held over the Easter break. For this year’s Carifta Championships, Cayman’s best youngsters aged between 14 and 19 are extra motivated because they’ll be at the Truman Bodden Sports Complex in George Town, writes Journal journalist Ron Schillingford.
As soon as Cayman was awarded the Games two months ago, everybody connected began frantic preparation for what will be one of the biggest events the Islands have ever staged, sport or otherwise.
It will cost over $500,000 to stage but that will be recouped in multiples just from the huge volume that will pass through.
Great athletes such as Usain Bolt, Asafa Powell, Veronica Campbell-Brown and Cayman’s Cydonie Mothersill, Ronald Forbes and Kareem Streete-Thompson all started their careers at the Caribbean Free Trade Association Games. The next generation of Olympic stars could use this event as their own springboard to world acclaim.
Leading the local charge for the tournament, which runs from 3-5 April, will be Alexandra Terry (girls Under-20 discus), Travis Webb (boys U20 high jump and long jump), Chantelle Morrison (girls U17 100 metres and 200 metres) and Ashleigh Nalty (girls U17 long and high jump). Terry may also throw in the javelin.
Morrison won bronze in the 100m at last year’s Carifta, held in Jamaica and is gold medal favourite before her home crowd. She is arguably the fastest 15-year-old girl in the world. (She is 16 on 17 January).
Terry and Webb have won medals at previous Carifta Games.
Rayle Roberts is president of the Cayman Islands Athletic Association. It will be a lot of hard work to stage these Games on relatively short notice, but he is up for the challenge.
“We have approximately 550 athletes coming to Cayman,” he says. “The numbers are dependent on qualifications so they could go up or down. We also expect approximately 50-60 coaches and officials dependent on team sizes.
“Tourists and supporters could amount to thousand or more as we already have 250 confirmed from Jamaica and Bahamas, 50 from Barbados and the rest from their countries combined,” says Roberts.
“There are also supporters who will travel alone not a part of the team.
“The Cayman Islands Government has committed $100,000 cash towards staging these Games, the rest of the funds will be received through regional sponsors and our athletic governing bodies as well as in kind sponsorship from local businesses like LIME and CUC. Any shortfall has to be raised from donations and sponsorship locally,” Roberts confirms and adds that the major financial returns will be in the hospitality industry rooms that are being booked as well as restaurants that will cater to these people.
“We also hope this will introduce people to our island but because it is Easter weekend there are a lot of stores that will be closed.
“We’ll also have plenty of travel to the island so there should be an airline boost and hopefully a financial return to the athletic association,” he says.
As far as sponsorship from the private sector is concerned, Roberts concedes that the response has been slow.
“We had to wait until we knew for sure what the regional sponsors have in their contract before aggressively pushing for local sponsorship but we do need more private sector funding,” he states.
Roberts can see tremendous benefits for Cayman by staging these Games.
“Cayman will earn the respect of the Caribbean by hosting this level of Games. This will allow us to bid on other Games as we desire that we can host here and they will be confident we can pull it off.
“Also, it will allow other sports to see that sports tourism in our island is quite viable and hopefully have more sports that will bring major competition.”
He certainly believes this could lead to bigger meets and championships being staged at the $3 million track. Cydonie may even fulfil her dream of running competitively in front of her own fans before she retires.
Rayle says that hotels, restaurants and ancillary services are fully aware of the Games. “The hotels that will carry the teams and officials are getting prepared to receive them, namely Comfort Suites, Sunshine Suites and Grand Caymanian,” he confirms.
As the event takes place at Easter time, the possibility of congestion at the airport might be of concern.
Rayle responds: “There will not be any major congestion as the charters will come at peak times and the others will come on regular flights. We will meet with the Civil Aviation Authority as well as immigration and customs to make this transition less demanding on all.”