On behalf of the entire Government, I congratulate the Cayman Islands Athletic Association for winning the bid to host the 2010 CARIFTA Games.
This speaks clearly of the high-level of confidence that the international sports governing bodies have in Cayman’s capacity to host such an important tournament, and it is no small achievement.
The CARIFTA Games has grown to become one of the premier youth track and field games in the world, and it serves as a gateway for many of the Caribbean’s great athletes. Usain Bolt, Kim Collins and our own Cydonie Mothersill, Ronald Forbes and now retired Kareem Streete-Thompson all gained invaluable experience through competing at the CARIFTA Games.
Many of you may remember that here at this track in 1995 Cydonie won a Bronze Medal in the 100 metres event.
I’d like to express my deepest condolences to Ronald and his father Ronald Senior and the entire Forbes family on the tragic passing of their young son Reuben, who like his older brother, was himself a young Caymanian with a bright future.
In addition, the International Athletics Federation has recognised CARIFTA as a qualifying meet for the first ever World Youth Olympics which will take place in Singapore next August.
So this is indeed a significant triumph for the Cayman Islands, and even as much work lies ahead, especially given the short notice, be assured that you have Government’s full support for a number of reasons.
The Caribbean in general commands significant respect in the world of track and field and CARIFTA always attracts regional and international media coverage. By extension, the Cayman Islands’ ability to become a major sports tourism destination will be highlighted.
Sports tourism generates some $600 billion annually and is one of the fastest growing travel sectors. CARIFTA represents a direct injection of almost half a million dollars into our economy over a three day period. This includes a Government investment of $100,000, which I believe will be one of the best value for money ventures of the year as we seek to build our sports tourism capabilities.
In addition to this, we will see benefit from the individual spending of the 600 athletes and additional supporters who will travel to support their teams. Already some 70 Bahamian supporters have booked hotel rooms for the games. More is expected from the Jamaican and Bermudian contingents.
Apart from the positive media exposure and direct investment, the country will also benefit from the IAAF training of some 250 local volunteers. They will be trained in officiating and other capacities, and this transfer of knowledge will equip us to take advantage of other events going forward.
However, apart from the more tangible benefits, there is another long-term advantage: Games such as CARIFTA carry an additional component which many do not often speak about but as Minister with responsibility for Health, Youth and Culture, I consider to be as important as winning medals. And that is the healthy lifestyle espoused by our athletes. Also, our youth will be the beneficiaries of a fantastic cultural exchange as they found friendships and build relations with athletes from across the region. Many of these will stay with them for an entire lifetime.
The CARFITA Games also presents us with an unprecedented chance to boost sports development in this country. For many years Government has supported local athletic development through the Department of Sports and the Cayman Islands Athletic Association. It is my hope that CARIFTA will now serve to mainstream sports development. As I noted earlier the cost of the games is approximately half a million of which Government has already committed a hundred thousand dollars.
CIAA still need to raise the remainder and I appeal directly to our business community to step up and be part of this event as we will all share the short and long term benefits which these Games will bring to our Islands.
In the past, the Cayman team has brought home CARIFTA medals every year since 2000, yet few of us have ever seen them compete at the highest level and more importantly they have not had the benefit of a home crowd to support their pursuits. Dedicated track and field supporters might remember Edward Manderson, Paul Hurlston and Adam Llewellyn back in the 80s and the Morgan twins, Ryan Haylock, Dominic Powell and Omar Wright in the 1990s to name a few.
I wish our future athletes stars and their coaches a successful preparation season.
For many years our athletes had to travel the region and the wider athletic world to compete on behalf of the Cayman Islands. But, next year you will be on home soil, and we will all be there, every day, cheering you on from the stands.
Finally, I call on the entire community to support this event. I also commend CIAA again for this feat and wish the local organising committee every success in preparing for these Games.
Minister of Health, Environment, Youth, Sports and Culture