Bodden: Sports tourism is our focus

 Minister of Sports Osbourne Bodden has his eyes on a number of issues related to local athletes. 

During his speeches in the Legislative Assembly last week, Bodden addressed sports tourism and infrastructure expenditure. With a number of disciplines providing a boost to the local economy, he says government is committed to a new stream of public revenue and marketing. 

“With an increase in numbers of sports tourism events gracing our shores, we have seen an unprecedented number of visiting athletes, supporters and spectators,” Bodden said. “It creates a spin-off to tourism and stay-over tourism down the road. So just as cruise tourism does, sports tourism does the same in that it promotes future stay over tourism and great exposure for these islands.” 

Bodden went on to say that sports tourism is its own industry and represents big business for Cayman. The main examples he gave were the two recent Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football tournaments – the Boys Under-15 and Womens Under-20 competitions, the North, Central America and Caribbean Volleyball Confederation beach volleyball event and The Rock International Open kitesurfing spectacle.  

Regional powerhouses Honduras, Mexico and the United States were among the featured countries taking part in football and volleyball, with kitesurfing drawing many competitors from Europe. 

Cayman had competitors in those tournaments, produced commendable results and enjoyed a substantial boost to the local economy as visiting athletes stayed in local hotels, used ground transportation and dined at numerous restaurants on island. While the TRIO meet was stalled by a shortage of wind, it is still expected to be an annual competition – the only one in the Caribbean officially sanctioned by the International Kiteboarding Association, the sport’s world governing body, which also falls under the International Sailing Federation. 

With the national sport on the upswing, government has focused on upgrading football stadiums. According to government documents, government spent more than $280,000 in the last fiscal year to host the CONCACAF tournaments, while shelling out more than a half-million dollars for renovations at the Cayman Brac Sports Field and $1.4 million for renovations to the Ed Bush Sports Center in West Bay. The Ed Bush upgrades are in preparation for Cayman hosting the CONCACAF Under-15 Girls tournament this summer. 

Bodden said government has invested at least $2 million over the past year on infrastructure and will continue to spend. 

“On the structural side, we have spent millions. We continue to spend as much as we can to provide the infrastructure. We pray the private sector and CONCACAF and FIFA will continue to support and spend their own and invest in these opportunities for our own young people and the benefits that spin off to the country.”