Region faces Carifta Games challenges
News that the North American Central American and Caribbean Athletics Association (NACAC) is putting together plans to organise the 2021 Carifta Games in Bermuda has been met with mixed reaction across the Caribbean, as territories continue to grapple with the coronavirus disease.
Over 230,000 persons have been infected across the Caribbean, but while some of Jamaica’s top coaches have underlined the need for large scale return of the sport, noted Trinidadian journalist Kwame Laurence does not think the region has the capacity to safely execute the event, which is usually staged over the Easter weekend.
Michael Dyke, head coach of national girls champions Edwin Allen High, underlined that athletes are eager to get back on track and he strongly believes the region’s premier international age group championships should be allowed to go ahead if the spread of the virus is contained.
“I know the Government would have to sanction if we are to travel. They would have to be satisfied that everyone will be safe. They would have to get surety from the host country that everyone coming in will be safe. It is a competition that involves a number of countries from the region, and mixing with persons can create even more problems,” Dyke said. “But all things being equal and with all protocols in place as it relates to everyone’s safety, I would have no objection in allowing my athletes to go.”
Principal at the G.C. Foster College of Physical Education and Sport, Maurice Wilson, said certain questions would need answering beforehand, but believes that enough experience has been gained from the pandemic to know the safety standards required to design a workable template under which the event can be held.
“Whatever protocols need to be put in place to guarantee the safety of spectators and athletes, then those safety protocols will have to be employed. We need to look at examples in countries where meets are being held, even in Jamaica, and make our plans and a template that can be used as an example for countries who want to host whatever sporting event,” noted Wilson, who has led and served on every coaching panel at the Olympic Games and World Championships over the past decade.
MOST DIFFICULT CHALLENGE
Wilson believes the most difficult challenge will be moving participants through borders, but said consideration should also be given to when teams arrive, how long they will quarantine, if there can be organised charter flights and where participants will be hosted.
“Those will be the biggest challenges in making sure the meet is safe for all involved, but having gone over seven months in this pandemic, a lot of us understand what is involved and what we need to do to keep us safe,” Wilson added.
However, Laurence, multi-media sports producer/director, Caribbean Communications Network, parent company of the Trinidad Express, is of the opinion that, unless the COVID-19 situation improves ‘drastically’ in the region within the next six months, hosting the Games will be particularly challenging.
“It (Games) is so far-reaching in terms of the number of territories, and each territory has their own situation with the COVID rate of infection. So it will be particularly challenging in respect to (hosting) Carifta,” said Laurence, who has covered 18 instalments of the Carifta Games.
“There will also be financial challenges because already we see a reduction in funding for sports because governments have serious crises going on internally. So funding from government and corporate is going to be a serious challenge because of where COVID has left us economically,” added Laurence.
Even with strong financial support for the Games, he does not think the region has the financial capacity to undertake the additional expenses that will be associated with hosting a safely run championship.
Despite his concerns, he believes organisers should push to find creative ways within the pandemic to resume competitions.
“I want to see Carifta happen, but Carifta in its current form will not be possible if the situation doesn’t improve. So it’s a challenge for NACAC to sit down ahead of time and figure out how can Carifta Games and any other major events within the region be staged, and work towards that. We probably cannot have it like we used to, but let’s not give up the battle,” Laurence said.
Meanwhile, president of the Bermuda National Athletics Association, Donna Raynor, agrees that the major challenge will be getting athletes into the country and, although she anticipates a huge increase in the medical budget, she said they are still working out all the details with NACAC.
“With this economy and most around the world, we will probably have to make do with the funds we have. We will have to have all safety requirements in place to satisfy our Government. Fortunately, we are already working with them for our cross country and track, so already they are familiar with some of their requirements,” said Raynor.
“We were able to have everything purchased, as we were only a few weeks from (hosting) the (2020) Games. One of the main challenges will be the accommodations, as the hotel we were using closed. We have other options but cannot accommodate as many people. So this is really a wait-and-see game right now, but we hope to be able to have the Games in some form,” she added.
The 2020 Carifta Games, which was also scheduled for Bermuda, was cancelled earlier this year. This was the first time that the Carifta Games had not been held since its first staging in 1972.