BEIJING (CIOC) – A contingent from the Cayman Islands was able to break away from the Games for a few hours to eat a traditional Chinese meal in the Hutong district, an historic neighbourhood in Beijing this week.
After several days of intense preparation and long hours for the Games, the luncheon felt like a family reunion, which included athletes, relatives, team officials, executive committee and Chinese volunteers who work with the Olympic team. Many in the group showed they could handle chopsticks to the delight of the Chinese volunteers.
‘This is turning out to be an excellent Olympic Games’ said Olympic Committee President, Donald McLean.
“The Chinese people are really wonderful,” he said. “The Cayman team are having the time of their life. Our athletes have been phenomenal. And they have set personal bests and national records. There are 204 countries here and they are meeting a lot of people from all different countries. The whole Cayman Islands team are goodwill ambassadors for the country.
“The pins are extremely popular. Everyone wants a parrot pin.”
Chef de Mission Lori Powell says she didn’t know what to expect.
“The people have been incredibly welcoming and helpful,” says Powell. “The Chinese have gone all out to show to the world they are ready to compete at the highest level with everyone. And they themselves have dominated in a number of sports. They are showing they are ready to compete with the USA and Australia. And they now have the facilities to train their people.”
Also attending the luncheon was Fundraising Chairwoman Betty Baraud who has made it her personal mission to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars to help finance the Cayman athletes as they pursue their dreams to compete at the Olympics.
Also at the luncheon were the parents of the swimming competitors, Shaune and Brett Fraser.
“Any time you can get a personal best in the Olympics – it is something to be proud of,” says father Jim Fraser. “I know Shaune was somewhat disappointed at not getting to the semi-finals. But the competition at this meet was as good at it gets and it’s given him the motivation to improve his placing and his time for 2012 in London.
“For Brett, this is his first Olympics and this is definitely a great experience for him. Like his coach says, he is a diamond in the rough and he certainly has some good years ahead of him.”
Hurdler Ronald Forbes talked about the honour he feels to compete at the Olympics for his country and for his school, Florida International University.
“My father has been the biggest influence on me so far,” says Forbes. “He instilled in me my work ethic. But there are too many people in the Cayman Islands who have inspired me to name them all.”