Lord Coe had nothing but high praise for the CARIFTA Games
World Athletics President Lord Sebastian Coe calls the CARIFTA Games the greatest junior athletics meet in the world where special talent is revealed and where future athletic stars are born. No wonder he keeps returning year after year to the Caribbean region for the annual sports showcase.
The 50th Oaktree CARIFTA Games wrapped up over the Easter holiday weekend at the Thomas A. Robinson National Stadium in Nassau, The Bahamas.
Lord Coe wasn’t just a special guest at the event, he also served as the patron of the “Let’s Move Bahamas” CARIFTA Fun Run/Walk on Easter Monday and also participated, finishing in the top five. He had nothing but high praise for the CARIFTA movement and the organization of the 50th edition of the CARIFTA Games over the Easter holiday weekend.
“CARIFTA is the first event every ear that goes into my calendar. I have not missed one since 2015,” said Lord Coe. “Everyone has asked me what is going to happen when Usain (Jamaican track legend Usain Bolt) leaves the sport, and he has left the sport. He is a Herculean performer and he is missed, but I always say that if you want to see the future of track and field, come to the CARIFTA Games. This experience is huge and the athletes take it through their careers. It’s a very important building block for them, and for us in World Athletics, it is a very important aspect of our development programs.”
Lord Coe, a two-time Olympic champion in the men’s 1,500 meters (m) event, was elected president of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), now World Athletics, in August of 2015. He is a proponent for gender quality in sports, but has openly stated that “gender cannot trump biology” when deciding whether transgender athletes should compete against females.
As it relates to the CARIFTA Games, Lord Coe said he is excited about the level of talent on display, stating that more and more athletes are moving away from the
marquee events and experiencing success elsewhere. He also praised the resilience of athletes everywhere.
“Clearly, running is the staple diet in the Caribbean, but I am delighted that over the years that I have been coming to CARIFTA, I have witnessed many more athletes taking part in the field events and I’ve watched some really competitive middle distance events, so the interest is picking up in other events,” he said. “I think athletes in general have shown massive resilience, particularly during COVID, and I must pay tribute to them for that. It would have been very easy for some of them to hide away and maybe not come back to the sport but we survived in large part due to the creativity of our member federations. Above all and beyond all, the athletes showed massive resilience, fortitude and focus during that incredibly difficult period. The athletes have really been at the top of their game. Arguably, they have come back stronger than they were before COVID.”
Lord Coe said the CARIFTA Games is a part of their global strategy on development in athletics.
“We want to see it grow and become even more central in the development of the young athletes and I would like other area associations to look at it as a template going forward,” he said.
This year, Lord Coe is celebrating his 20th year on the council of World Athletics. From he entered the administrative aspect of the sport globally, he said the world relays was always a topic of interest at council meetings, and added that it took too long for them to bring it to fruition.
The World Athletics Relays return to the Thomas A. Robinson National Stadium in The Bahamas in 2024 after a seven-year absence. The first three editions were held in The Bahamas in 2014, 2015 and again in 2017. The 2019 event was moved to Yokohama Japan, and the 2021 world relays were held in Chorzów, Poland.
“The atmosphere when the relays are on is simply outstanding and the relays itself contribute in large part to that. Bringing the world relays to this part of the world again will only help to cement them,” said Lord Coe. “It took us too long to get to the world relays. I spoke about the need for us to be nimble and make quick decisions – in turning our creative thinking into practical applications. The world relays here were outstanding. They’re back and I’m truly delighted. Pauline (Bahamian track legend Pauline Davis) was instrumental in ensuring that we get the relays back here in The Bahamas and I’m delighted that the Bahamian government has come to the table and is really supportive in wanting to bring them back. This is an island that understands track and field preeminently. Pauline Davis has been my colleague on the World Athletics Council for many years, and if by chance, I didn’t remember how important track and field was to the Bahamian landscape, she would remind me every hour on the hour.”
The 2024 World Athletics Relays is tentatively set for the end of April/beginning of May next year. Lord Coe said he looks forward to returning to The Bahamas for that mega event.