The Cayman Islands may not have picked up many medals but the territory won plaudits and gained an economic boost from hosting the CARIFTA Games over the Easter weekend.
Athletes, coaches, fans and families filled the island’s hotels and restaurants as track and field teams from across the Caribbean converged on Grand Cayman.
The event, which attracted thousands of fans to the Truman Bodden Sports Complex over the three-day weekend, came to a close Monday. The 3,000-capacity stadium was sold out on Sunday and Monday and there was barely an empty seat on Saturday.
Cayman’s 52 athletes had just one medal in the official tally, Rachell Pascal’s javelin bronze, to show for their efforts.
But Cayman received plenty of praise for the way it had hosted the regional sports festival.
Lord Seb Coe, a former Olympic gold medallist for Great Britain and now president of the International Association of Athletic Federations, said the host nation had done a “remarkably good job”.
He said nothing could match the atmosphere of a Caribbean track meet and insisted there was no doubt that the Cayman crowd had witnessed some future Olympic champions over the course of the weekend.
“If you are in any doubt about the future of our sport, particularly in the Caribbean, come to CARIFTA,” he said.
“I don’t know an atmosphere anywhere else in the world like this,” he added. “You don’t always need 60,000 people in a stadium. You can generate an extraordinary atmosphere with people who really get the sport.”
Joel Francis, co-chair of the local organising committee, said he was proud of the organising team and pleased with how the event had gone.
“I think the Cayman Islands demonstrated its capacity, now that we have improved facilities, that we can put on events of a high calibre.”
He said it meant Cayman may now qualify to host events like the Pan Am juniors.
David Wight, Cayman’s counsellor for sports, said the event had been a year in the making. He said Sports Minister Juliana O’Connor-Connolly and the local organising committee, led by Lance Barnes and Francis, had made the event a success.
“It was really well organised,” he said, “and all credit must go to them and to the volunteers because they were the ones that made it happen.”
Off the track, the partner hotels, transport businesses and others were celebrating an economic windfall.
Wight added, “It is not just athletes that came in for the event; there were managers, coaches, teams, families, fans. This was big for Cayman.”
Tom Mason, manager of Comfort Suites, said the hotel and neighbouring businesses had benefited from the games.
“Comfort Suites was proud to host teams from the Bahamas, Haiti, Martinique, French Guyana and Guadeloupe,” he said. “There was great excitement within the hotel from both the guests and staff, who really enjoyed the interaction with the young athletes who came from all over the region to represent their countries.
“The hotel ran full for the duration of the games and I am sure that other businesses and hotels enjoyed the spin-off of people who came for the games and who greatly enjoyed the Cayman Islands experience.”
The local organising committee consisted of co-chairs Francis and Barnes, deputy co-chairs Ventisha Conolly and Evelyn Rockett, and members Jacqueline Haynes, Darrel Rankine, Collin Anglin, Osbert Francis, Scimone Campbell and Elizabeth Ibeh.