World soccer’s executive elites are on island this week, bringing with them a boost to the Cayman Islands’ sports tourism efforts.
The country has had success lately in that realm, thanks in no small part to Cayman’s Jeffrey Webb, who is vice president of the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA). For example, Cayman has recently played host to a regional under-15 soccer tournament, a track and field meet featuring stars such as Jamaica’s Usain Bolt, and, of course, scheduled events such as the annual Flowers Sea Swim.
As we’ll hear during this week’s CONCACAF sports summit, encouraging sports tourism is a smart idea, and promoting a culture of sports is one way to reduce crime, unite communities, promote national pride and encourage good health.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
As Mr. Webb points out, there’s a logical limit to Cayman’s sports tourism ambitions. No one would dispute that this tiny country is not likely to host a World Cup. However, Mr. Webb says that with investments over years, Cayman should be able to host more realistic but still significant major international tournaments.
On a related note, public spending on local sports should also be done judiciously. Cayman’s potential to produce true world-class athletes is limited, statistically, by the size of the population.
We shouldn’t encourage our children to fall into the trap – pervasive in poor U.S. urban areas – of betting their futures on the unlikely possibility that they will develop into world-class professional athletes. Academics for young people are far more important – and determinative of success in life – than athletics.
Nevertheless, sports are a way to keep children engaged in school and maybe even help them get scholarships to top academic colleges and universities. For the vast majority of our athletes, however, sports should be viewed as an enabler, not a career path.
And so, let us continue to encourage Caymanians to participate in sports, and, for our economy, to attempt to grow sports tourism as an increasing contributor to our economy.