The recent 3-day CARIFTA Games was concluded in Kingston, Jamaica and was a tremendous occasion for both the athletes and the exuberant spectators in the stands.
The fans in the National Stadium were just epic in their support for the junior athletics on show which was appreciated by both local and other Caribbean athletes who competed.
There were many colossal performances from the athletes, with the junior world record set by the Jamaican girls under-20 team in the 4 x 100m relay being most people’s defining moment of the Games. Just stunning.
As usual, Jamaica came out on top of the medal table and that winning streak goes back to the mid-1980s. In fact, since the CARFITA Games began in 1974 Jamaica has finish top all but 5 of the years.
Given the investment made at the junior level in Jamaican athletics it is no surprise at the island’s sustained success compared to the other Caribbean islands at this regional event. Population also plays a part given there are some high schools in Jamaica who have more kids in attendance than the entire island of some of the other participating nations.
Despite the perceived success of the CARIFTA Games just like any sport the event needs fresh thinking.
Just like any long standing sporting event the CARIFTA Games needs a injection of participants to attract greater coverage, more competition and increased revenue streams from within and beyond the shores of the Caribbean.
For one thing the CARIFTA Games organizing body should lobby hard for the participation of the larger non-English speaking Caribbean nations such as Cuba, Dominican Republic and Haiti.
But I would go even further to make CARIFTA Games a more global attraction and invite one, maybe 2, guest nations from other continents.
Just imagine the interest and revenue stream if the CARIFTA Games hosted the top juniors from Qatar one year, then South Africa the following year followed by Japan, Brazil, England and so on?
The CARFITA Games is largely considered as one of the most successful development events in all of sports. It’s success at being a critical launch pad for future sporting stars is part of its ongoing appeal.
The fan expectations from last week’s CARIFTA Games means that the likes of Brianna Lyston, Tia and Tina Clayton, Serena Cole (Jamaica’s sprint relay world record quartet) and Adaejah Hodge (British Virgin Islands) are considered favorites to reach the pinnacle of athletics whenever they step onto the senior stage.
The Caribbean is a powerhouse in athletics today and adding more nations to a major junior event such as the CARIFTA Games will just keep the region’s dominance on a sound footing. And boost the local coffers as well.
CARFITA Games 2022 is one event many who witnessed it will never forget. It delivered and set a platform for what is to come from those who had competed.