On track for a great CARIFTA

When the CARIFTA Games are held
here over the Easter weekend the sponsors will hopefully be totally happy.

Two major sponsors were at the
Truman Bodden Sports Complex this week to ensure things are going smoothly and
they were pleasantly surprised by how well preparations are going for the track
tournament that runs from 3-5 April.

Four executives flew in on Monday for
reassurance that it will be a success; Maria Rivas-McMillan and Brevard Nelson
of Trinidad-based Guardian Holdings, Hasely Crawford, of National Gas Company
in Trinidad and Neville ‘Teddy’ McCook, president of the North American,
Central American and Caribbean Athletic Association.

Trinidadian Crawford, of course,
knows what he is talking about in track and field because he was the Olympic
100 metres champion in 1976.

He said: “From what I’ve seen I’m
not too dissatisfied. Your track is new and your work-out track looks good too.
You have a lot of facilities here. You’re ahead of the game.

“Most hosting CARIFTA Games
countries are nowhere half as ready as you evidently are. I’m very satisfied.”

McCook was pleasantly surprised
too. He said: “If the sponsors are satisfied it’s a big plus. The CARIFTA Games
is a traditional competition and it is a major games not only in our region but
as far as the IAAF is concerned.

“I am certainly interested in
seeing it go well because the president of the IAAF, Lamine Diack, will be
here. This is my third visit in the past couple of weeks and when I leave here
tonight I want to be sure that our sponsors are satisfied.”

Usain Bolt started his sizzling
career in the CARIFTA Games. McCook feels the Jamaican sensation has just
carried on a great tradition.

McCook said: “A lot of athletes at
the highest level now from various countries in the region came from CARIFTA.
In Berlin, at last year’s World Championships, you had a lot of youngsters who
were in CARIFTA 2007. They were from Trinidad, Barbados, Jamaica, Bahamas, Antigua
and Anguilla.

“So there is an upward movement of
athletes performing at the highest level that have come through the CARIFTA

Rivas-McMillan said: “At the
CARIFTA Games I’m always amazed at the enthusiasm and audience participation.
Every year you find plane loads of Trinidadians, Bahamians, Jamaicans and
Barbadians coming in to support their athletes. It’s an atmosphere that you
really have to experience to believe.

“So I’m urging all Caymanians to
come out and really support. And I know that there are a lot of people living
and working in the Cayman Islands who are from other islands in the Caribbean
who should come out and support the athletes and the games.

“As a regional player in the
financial industry, we believe it is our responsibility to really support our
young people and to get them networking and the CARIFTA Games is one way of
getting the people of the Caribbean together at an early age because they are
the ones who are going to lead the people of the Caribbean in the 21st

“So it’s important to compete with
each other in a friendly atmosphere so that we can work together for the
general good of all.”

Crawford added: “Ten years ago
Jamaica was ruling the roost at CARIFTA and every year I’m seeing us close the

“I’m really going to close that gap
this year, I’m really going for it!”

Rayle Roberts is president of the
Cayman Islands Athletic Association. He said: “The value of the CARIFTA Games
is that local sponsors can come on board and really get behind it.

“I echo the sentiments of getting
local people behind our athletes. We’re not used to weekly, monthly meets but
this is very much a start. We’re pushing our sports tourism but also we have a
core of young athletes coming up we think can continue in the tradition of
Cydonie Mothersill and Kareem Steete-Thompson and go on the world stage.
CARIFTA is a breeding ground for that.

“It’s all about corporations and
the people getting behind our athletes and pushing them ahead.”

Delroy Murray, former president of
the track association said: “Kareem has finished his career and Cydonie is in
the twilight of hers but I don’t think many Caymanians have seen them compete

“So here’s an opportunity in which
we have a number of our outstanding young athletes competing and people can
come out and show their appreciation.

“That connection between community
and Streete-Thompson and Cydonie is not as strong as it could have been and by
fostering that, these athletes could get that community support.

“And let’s see if we can mix up the
medals between the Jamaicans, Trinidadians and Barbadians.”