For the first time in history, the CARIFTA Games has been canceled. Whereas it was felt that the decision was inevitable given the nature of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, a vast majority of organizers, sponsors and participants are obviously disappointed given the prestige and uniqueness of the junior athletics event.
The decision was made public yesterday by the governing body of athletics in the region – the North American, Central American and Caribbean Athletic Association (NACAC). Bahamian president of NACAC Mike Sands said during the initial phases of the postponement, they didn’t want to go beyond August for the hosting of the games. The 2020 CARIFTA Games was initially set for April 10 to 13 at the Bermuda National Sports Centre in Hamilton, Bermuda.
“This is a decision that none of us wanted, but it is one that had to be made given the circumstances,” said Sands. “Everyone was actually holding out hope. We were trying to push it as far as we could push but there are a number of impediments that would have caused it to be complicated going forward. There was a lot of uncertainty surrounding the hosting of the event, two of the biggest concerns being that nobody could train properly given the circumstances of COVID-19 and no one knows when international travel will resume with some state of normalcy. It’s disappointing for all but it’s not something to dwell on because you cannot hold any one person or any organization accountable. This is something that none of us could have controlled and so there is some solace in that. There is some light at the end of the tunnel. Bermuda will still host the 49th version of CARIFTA. It’ll just be in 2021 as opposed to 2020.”
Sands listed a number of factors that led to the decision to cancel CARIFTA, namely the presence of the COVID-19 pandemic and its overall impact on the host country as well as all members of the CARIFTA family; the impact on government and private sector plans and budgets for 2020 and, perhaps, beyond; uncertainty in respect of the re-convening of international travel; the closure of schools and sports facilities, thereby impacting athletes’ ability to train and adequately prepare for a delayed edition of the CARIFTA Games; delayed examinations for students at the pre-college stage of their careers; and, finally, World Athletics had already announced the postponement and/or cancelation of several of its own competitions for 2020, including the World Junior (Under-20) Championships.
Sands said the decision to cancel CARIFTA was made in consultation with the member federation in Bermuda, the government of Bermuda and the National Olympic Committee of Bermuda, as well as sponsors. The 49th version of the games is now set for the Easter holiday weekend in 2021, meaning athletes in the final years of CARIFTA eligibility would have missed out on that one last experience at the junior level.
“It’s very unfortunate, but it’s something that could not have been avoided given the circumstances,” said Sands. “The response from Bermuda was very encouraging. Obviously no one could have predicted this but there is no control by anyone involved with the CARIFTA movement with what is affecting the entire world right now. Bermuda is in total support of is. Obviously, they’re disappointed after they would have invested so much but they understand that it’s not to be and they receive comfort in hosting the 49th version of the games in 2021.”
With Bermuda still as host of the 49th version of CARIFTA, that pushes Guyana’s hosting back to ‘22 – the 50th anniversary of the games. Sands said that discussions have begun with all of the stakeholders in Guyana, in search of their understanding and support, given that Bermuda did nothing to lose the annual event this year and is deserving of being given an opportunity to make good on its commitment, albeit one year later.
“The NACAC executive believes that our decision is in the best collective interest of our CARIFTA family and allows us all an opportunity to support both Bermuda and Guyana in the face of these most trying times,” said Sands. “We have an excellent opportunity to work more deliberately together, to show to the world that our annual CARIFTA Games are indeed the very best junior track and field competition, globally.”
In closing, Sands said NACAC appeals to all of its stakeholders to heed the advice of the medical fraternity and adhere to the established protocols in the protection and security of all involved in the face of COVID-19.
The CARIFTA Games is arguably the biggest and most popular annual junior athletics championships in this region.