Gold for hosting CARIFTA

The Cayman Islands did
exceptionally well in hosting the CARIFTA Games considering it was all done at
short notice.

Normally a country gets two years
to prepare for the biggest international track and field competition in the
Caribbean for junior athletes.

But when the United States Virgin
Islands pulled out over unenforceable visa issues last year, the Cayman Islands
willingly stepped in.

It was always going to be a tough
task but Rayle Roberts, president of the Cayman Islands Athletic Association
and past president Delroy Murray as well as Evelyn Rockett and many other
volunteers, simply rolled their sleeves up and got on with making it a success.

It was a struggle and many of the
hundreds of volunteers working behind the scenes up till the start at 9am
Saturday morning will attest to how tight and stressful their deadlines were.
Yet Cayman not only pulled it off but gained plenty of kudos in the process.

There were a few glitches of course
but each day was a sell out, events ran on time and none of the 500 athletes
had any major problems.

At the last session on Monday night
hundreds of hopeful ticket buyers were disappointed. Many were reduced to
glimpsing through the fences. The Truman Bodden Sports Complex was packed with
5,000 appreciative onlookers.

With whistles, horns, trumpets, tubas,
cow bells, klaxons and all manner of percussive instruments filling the night
air, a carnival atmosphere was created.

Jamaica dominated the three-day
event as usual but Cayman at least had plenty to cheer about when the tiny
Chantelle Morrison sped down the track to win the girls Under-17 100 metres on
Saturday, for Cayman’s only medal.

Premier McKeeva Bush was at the
opening ceremony on Saturday afternoon with Minister of Sport Mark Scotland and
track chief Lamine Diack, the IAAF president.

Cydonie Mothersill finally received
her bronze medal from the 2001 World Championships from the dignitaries.

Cayman’s hosting of the CARIFTA
Games got the thumbs up from Don Quarrie, the legendary Jamaican sprinter who
won the Olympic 200m at the 1976 Montreal Games.

Mr Quarrie said: “The CARIFTAs here
was very nice. I enjoyed the enthusiasm from the crowd. The performance from some
of the athletes was overwhelming and I’m quite sure whenever it comes back here
it will be even better than what it was today. It was fun competition and a good
atmosphere.”

Howard Aris, president of the
Jamaica Track and Field Association, said: “Cayman’s hosting of these
championships was excellent. The organisation of the whole thing was very good.
Rayle Roberts and Delroy Murray both did a fantastic job.

“On the strength of how well you’ve
done with CARIFTA you have demonstrated that you’ve mastered it and can do it
one or two more times.”

Charles Maynard is the Minister of
Youth, Sports and Culture in the Bahamas. He too was impressed and said: “How
Cayman hosted this was flawless. The level of organisation was tremendous.

“These are major undertakings and
you could see that the nation bought into this and so everybody from the
transport people, the stadium people, even the hotels were all very accommodating
to make sure the athletes had a good stay and I want to congratulate the
government and the sports associations of the Cayman Islands for a job well
done.”

Rayle Roberts said: “I think this
event is something we can be proud of to show that sports tourism is
sustainable here, not only in track and field but also other sports.

“The support from our sponsors,
both local and regional and the government was overwhelming. We’ve seen that
Cayman people have the heart and the facilities and the means to show the world
that we can get things done.”

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Charles Maynard
Photo: Ron Shillingford
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