Grand Cayman will welcome hundreds of the Caribbean’s finest athletes and their supporters this week for 48th annual CARIFTA Games.
It is our islands’ third time hosting this important regional competition since Cayman’s athletes began participating four decades ago. From Saturday through Monday, supporters will pack the stands at the newly renovated Truman Bodden Sports Complex on Olympian Way.
Some of those in attendance might remember when the complex first opened in April 1995, only a week before our islands’ first experience hosting CARIFTA. Back then, with a population half of what it is today, we were the smallest nation ever to do so. We hosted again in 2010, the first year the Games were televised. Nine years later, we are again excited to show the best of Caymankind.
Over the passing years, both Cayman and the games have grown. Today, the CARIFTA Games are among the world’s youth track and field events, attracting many of the Caribbean’s strongest competitors.
Quite a few outstanding Olympians have taken their first few steps on the path to distinction at CARIFTA. That is true for local heroes such as Cydonie Mothersill, Ronald Forbes and Kareem Streete-Thompson, and for other nations’ competitors, such as Saint Kitts and Nevis sprinter Kim Collins and Jamaica’s legendary Usain Bolt. For a fascinating history, including a recounting of Cayman’s medal winners over the years, see tomorrow’s Weekender.
In fact, it’s not unlikely that this weekend’s spectators will catch a glimpse of some of tomorrow’s Olympic stars. This year, a record-breaking 52 young athletes make up our team. Watching them compete for gold on their own home turf – in front of thousands of fans – will be an exhilarating experience.
Hosting CARIFTA is no small task for our little islands, but it is well worth the effort. It offers a chance to show our Caribbean neighbours what makes our islands special and helps establish ourselves as a sports tourism destination. As successful event follows successful event, this lucrative and exciting segment of our tourism industry will only continue to grow.
But perhaps the most important benefit of hosting CARIFTA is the example it sets for our young people, offering a life-changing opportunity for our athletes to shine brightly throughout our region and to meet new friends. Without question, this weekend’s competition will be an experience they will long remember.
For their peers and fans cheering them on from the side lines, CARIFTA offers motivation to strive for excellence and clear evidence of the value of a healthy lifestyle. Our athletes are living proof that by eating healthy, training regularly and pushing oneself to the limits of their endurance, our bodies are capable of amazing feats.
Sports offer so many valuable lessons for our young people: teamwork, dedication, good sportsmanship and giving your all. As many an athlete and coach has observed, these are essential skills for success not only on the field, but in school, work, relationships – indeed, throughout one’s life.
So welcome to all our visitors, and thanks to the Cayman Islands Athletic Association, community partners, sponsors and volunteers who came together to make this weekend possible.
Let the games begin!