With just more than three months to go until the 48th staging of the CARIFTA Games in Grand Cayman 20-22 April, local athletes should be working to shave times off personal bests and hitting qualifying standards. Instead, their local season has been derailed as promises of a new track at the Truman Bodden Sports Complex has fallen behind schedule. Leaving many frustrated and searching for answers.
What is the cost of hosting the CARIFTA Games?
In a press conference held October 2018, Local Organizing Committee Co-Chair Joel Francis “estimated the cost will be at a minimum of CI $1.4 million dollars, with CI $200,000 from the Government to secure the hotel deposits.”
Cayman 27 has learned through of Freedom of Information request, the total financial commitment by Government is in fact CI $880,342.
Promises of a new track at the Truman Bodden Sports Complex ‘with minimal disruption’ to the Cayman Islands Athletics Association (CIAA) season were said to be completed by December 2018. As of Wednesday (16 January) work hasn’t even begun. Athletics President Lance Barnes says he’s been told it will now start this month.
“We were told that the track work will commence sometime early January,” said Barnes. “Hopefully, it will complete the second week in February. As a result of that, it has effected our local meets.”
With no local meets having been completed thus far, and a six-week timeline needed to lay the track, Cayman’s athletes now have a small window in which to hit qualifying times for CARIFTA once the season begins. The tracks impending closure has left those like CARIFTA bronze medalist Danneika Lyn to train in what she calls poor conditions in the build up to the games.
“It’s a very hard the track (John Gray walking track),” said Lyn. “It isn’t leveled like this track (Truman Bodden) is leveled. The asphalt track isn’t a 400-metre track, so it’s harder for you to keep your pace, and you can’t sprint on that type of surface.”
Others like 2018 CARIFTA silver medalist Neil Brown say athletes are at risk of injury.
“It’s not been easy,” said Brown. “It’s a lot harder, so you’re more prone to shine splints and stuff like that.”
While coaches like Mustang Track Club Tyrone Yen say they are scrambling to change preparations.
“This is a crucial stage that links both the preparation and the competition phase,” said Yen. “With that six weeks being off, certainly we will be at a disadvantage.”
As many search for a solution, 345 Athletics Club Head Coach Derek Larner says there aren’t many to chose from.
“When the track opens, there’s only a couple a weeks before the deadline,” said Larner. “It’s really going to make life difficult for the athletes. I know people have said they can go overseas to Jamaica or Cuba, but people don’t have deep pockets and the cost of a flight and accommodation is beyond a lot of parents.”
With many looking for the responsible parties, Coach Yen says that question has been asked but members of the Athletics Association were left with few answers.
“The President, neither the L.O.C, had any answers for the members,” said Yen. “I am not sure where the blame lies, or who needs to answer to it, but it’s obvious because no work is going on, and nothing is happening. It definitely needs an answer.”
Leaving many to wonder whether the real cost of hosting the CARIFTA Games is at the expense of the athletes.
Note: The Athletics Association has three meets scheduled prior to the 48th CARIFTA Games within the current TBSC track renovation schedule:
2 March: Truman Bodden Classic Meet, Truman Bodden Sports Complex
15-16 March: 2019 CARIFTA Trials, Truman Bodden Sports Complex
6 April: CARIFTA Last Chance Meet, Truman Bodden Sports Complex