Monday, April 22, 2024

A THORNY ISSUE – Truly one love with CARIFTA


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The real test of Caribbean integration is the everyday interaction between its people. 
CARICOM protocols are just the red tape which play no meaningful role in how ordinary people relate to each other. 
If we had to rely on some of what is signed on paper and used as a guide of how we should trade and socialise we might find it to be more divisive than unifying. 
It has been proven that the informal treaties of co-operation that emanate through areas like sports and culture provide more binding ties. The CARIFTA Games is one such unifying force.  
Ask anyone who has attended any of the previous games or this year’s in Montego Bay, Jamaica. Very often we wonder, for instance, how committed Bahamas is to the regional movement, but when it comes to CARIFTA Games there is no doubt where they stand. They usually have one of the largest teams and the biggest contingent of supporters who bring a very vibrant spirit and keep us entertained with their musical instruments.
We are like one big family despite the fact that we want our respective countries to do well. What is significant, notwithstanding the sometimes fierce competition, is that coaches can be heard and seen sharing information for the improvement of opposing athletes. I witnessed it in the Girls’ Under-17 long jump which was won by Akela Jones.
Some of the foreign coaches believed she should adjust her run-up by at least two metres so that she could hit the board and have better jumps. People genuinely respect good talent and are generous in pointing the way forward because there is not a parochial view when it comes to Caribbean track and field, unlike other areas. 
There is no lack of encouragement and adulation right across the board for our top athletes. 
We get our first sightings of special talent at the CARIFTA Games. We actually grow with the athletes as they go on to make their mark on the international scene. 
We could refer to the origins of the group of Bahamian runners whose exploits led them to be dubbed the Golden Girls. The same applies to Obadele Thompson, Kim Collins, Ryan Brathwaite and Usain Bolt just to mention a few. These icons have played their part in reassuring us that we as Caribbean people have the ability to compete against and conquer the rest of the world. We can use that inspiration to be the best we can be in our own areas of endeavour.
No matter what, we must sustain these games and that’s why we have to be grateful to Jamaica for saving the day when it seemed that they might have had to be called off this year. It would have been a grave injustice in the movement of regional integration if the games were called off, especially in their 40th year. 
It is in this context that founder Austin Sealy has been assured his legacy as a visionary who has played his role in the Caribbean integration movement. At the opening ceremony all the speakers sang his praises and he was presented with the keys to Montego Bay. 
I think those with the authority should go a step further and accord him the highest honour CARICOM has to offer.
We must also take note that telecommunications service provider LIME has recognised the importance of the event and has invested resources to ensure viewers in the region can see their best young athletes perform. 
Long live the CARIFTA Games; many different flags, one region.
Andi Thornhill is sports editor at the Caribbean Broadcasting corporation.


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