Today’s Editorial for December 18: It’s been a champion year

It’s been a rough year in the Cayman Islands as the global recession has taken hold but at least the sports scene remains buoyant.

Although businesses suffered significantly, unemployment levels increased and on the financial front things generally look bleak, sports events have flourished.

Surveys show that during a recession, people focus more on their health and keeping fit to compensate for financial woes.

That may have been a factor in Cayman’s bumper sports year but it’s also because Grand Cayman has almost fully recovered from the effects of Ivan.

The outgoing PPM ensured that the sports infrastructure was finished as much as possible before the May elections.

Football stadia in all the districts were re-opened, the state-of-the-art boxing gym was finally erected, basketball found itself a new indoor home at Camana Bay and a busier programme was introduced at the Truman Bodden Sports Complex.

The recent Cayman Marathon and Cayman Triathlon had record participation with overseas visitor numbers higher than ever. So too did the annual Flowers Sea Swim, whose international reputation is growing inexorably.

This is so encouraging because sports tourism can make a considerable contribution to offset falling revenue from the financial sector.

The average visitor spends around $2,200 and the ripple effect when an event is done well leads to exponential returns.

That is evident after volleyball hosted its first major event at Public Beach in March. Feedback was glowing and the regional organisers soon after made Cayman a permanent fixture on the international calendar.

Squash too has made an invaluable contribution. The Cayman Open in May, of which Cayman Free Press was and will be proud to support, attracted most of the women’s top players. It was so successful that Cayman was asked to host the Caribbean Championships on short notice in August and did so with aplomb.

Squash has come out of the shadows this year, with the Cayman Open at Camana Bay scheduled for April giving it more worldwide kudos and last month it secured the 2012 World Open which will generate $7 million into the economy.

Charles Whittaker is likely to fight for a world boxing title here next year and the success of the girls’ national Under-17 football team is a boost for the game too.

All in all, it’s been a champion year.