NASSAU, Bahamas — Prime Minister the Rt. Hon. Perry G. Christie officially opened the 42nd CARIFTA Games during the opening ceremony at the Thomas Robinson National Stadium, Friday, March 29, 2013. This is the 7th time that The Bahamas has hosted the regional games, which will run from March 29 – April 1.
The Prime Minister said, “It is with the greatest of pride that we today host over 600 of the finest athletes, coaches and officials from 26 countries in the inaugural regional sporting event for our new National Stadium which has been named in honour of the late Thomas Robinson, the Bahamas’ first internationally recognised track and field athlete, who died late last year.
“I could not think of a more fitting opening event for this stadium. So Tommy my friend I know as you observe the Opening Ceremony of these 42nd Annual CARIFTA games from your eternal resting place, I am assured that you share with all of us the joy and pride that is befitting this occasion.”
Prime Minister Christie said since its completion, the stadium has come to symbolise the future of national sports in The Bahamas.
“It is a modern facility, designed to provide the best environment for training athletes and holding sports and cultural events. It holds thousands of enthusiastic supporters and fans; it is a stadium that, I hope, will do much to unite the people of The Bahamas.”
He added, “We owe a great debt of gratitude to the People’s Republic of China for their marvellous gift and for the construction of the stadium.”
The Prime Minister noted that as a former athlete, track and field sporting events are very close to his heart.
He said he represent a generation of Bahamian athletes who could not have imagined or even dreamt of competing in a Bahamian stadium such as this one.
“It was therefore, not difficult for me, when the opportunity was presented to have made a decision to effect the construction of this stadium for and on behalf of Bahamian athletes who had made great strides in elevating and promoting our country in the field of international athletics.”
Prime Minister Christie said although the theme for these Games is “A Celebration of Caribbean Unity”, he feels Caribbean unity has always been the focus and the purpose of these games.
“When Austin Sealy, of Barbados, started the games in 1972, they were meant to enhance relations between the English-Speaking countries of the Caribbean after the dissolution of the West Indies Federation.”
The Prime Minister saluted Mr. Sealy for creating a competition, which has become a model.
Prime Minister Christie said over the years athletes have developed an appreciation and respect for one another at CARIFTA, which has been translated into admiration and support for each other whenever and wherever they perform on the international stage.
“For example, there is no Caribbean person who did not celebrate with the Jamaicans when Usain Bolt won both the 100 and 200 metre sprints and there is no Caribbean person who did not rejoice when the Bahamian Golden Knights took the gold in the 4 x 400 relay in the 2012 Summer Olympics, running down team USA on the last leg of the relay to thunderous cheers and applause from the crowds.
“Our sporting successes as a region help to unite us; we feel cohesion as a people with similar histories and culture.”
The Prime Minister also noted that The Bahamas has had a rich history of success at CARIFTA games.
Five Bahamian female athletes have had the distinction of being awarded the coveted Austin Sealy Award for the most outstanding performance over the years. They are MaryAnn Higgs, Lavern Eve, Pauline Davis-Thompson, Debbie Ferguson-McKenzie and last year’s star, Anthonique Strachan.
Prime Minister Christie said, “That CARIFTA has been an integral part of producing so many world class athletes, speaks to the calibre of competition that is set here. It also tells me, that many of the athletes, who will be competing over the next four days, represent the future of Caribbean athletics and some will be future World and Olympic Champions for the Caribbean. It is vital that we continue to nurture young people who show new and surprising potential and talent for athletics.”