The CARIFTA Games is on the way back – set to be held for the first time in three years.
COVID-19 is still rampant throughout the region, and a number of sports disciplines are still not being played, but organizers of the annual CARIFTA Games junior track and field competition are confident that measures will be in place to ensure a safe and successful hosting of the games in April.
The event which has been cancelled for the past two years, is tentatively set for the Easter Holiday weekend, April 16-18, at the Jamaica National Stadium in Kingston, Jamaica.
For the island nation, the 49th edition of the games aligns with their Diamond Jubilee of Independence as Jamaica is celebrating 60 years of independence this year, and the games will be a part of the celebrations. The Jamaica Athletics Administrative Association (JAAA) will be the host association of the games.
President of the North American, Central
American and Caribbean Athletic Association (NACAC) Mike Sands was a recent guest of honor in Jamaica to recognize and launch the 100-day countdown to the games.
“I just want to thank the Government of Jamaica, and the JAAA, for agreeing to support the hosting of these games. We are very pleased and happy that Jamaica has taken up the challenge on short notice,” said Sands. “Jamaica has been a perennial powerhouse in the region and the vast majority of the athletes in the Caribbean region have come through the system, so we all appreciate the significance of the CARIFTA Games to the development of our sport throughout our region. CARIFTA has always produced diamonds in the rough, and stars are born. We expect that this particular CARIFTA Games in Jamaica will be no exception, and in that respect, we are very excited.”
The last two CARIFTA Games were set to take place in Hamilton, Bermuda, but were postponed because of the threat of COVID-19. The infectious disease is still out there, but Sands is confident with the measures that will be in place, that CARIFTA 2022 will be held. The presence of fans in the stands is another issue.
“Hopefully we could have fans given the circumstances,” said Sands. “From the member federations, we are looking forward to full participation. The athletes are very excited to get started, particularly since there has been no junior regional competition in athletics at this level for the past two years. The enthusiasm is at an all-time high, specifically because of the disruption of COVID over the past two years. We’re just looking forward to the opportunity to get back on track at some level of normality.”
Sands is appealing for Corporate Jamaica to get on board early and partner with them in the hosting of the CARIFTA Games.
“We implore Corporate Jamaica to joins us in this effort and provide whatever support they can to ensure that these games are a success,” said Sands. “We’re confident that the games will take place. An added plus for the success of the games is that the CARIFTA is coming at a time when Jamaica will be celebrating its 60th Independence. With that, they are looking to put on an exciting event. We have met with the member federations and from what was discussed, they have the utmost confidence that the games are on track to take place as scheduled.”
Sands acknowledged that with less than 100 days to the start of the event, time is limited, and therefore, plans must be put in place, particularly as it relates to affordable housing of the athletes, coaches and officials.
“There isn’t any time for any delay, so a number of decisions will be made in rapid succession,” said Sands. “We’re confident that with the discussions that were held that everything will fall into place.”
The CARIFTA Games is the premier annual junior athletics competition for athletes in the Caribbean. It was once praised by World Athletics (WA) President Lord Sebastian Coe as the best junior athletics competition in the world.