It was at the meeting of the Ministers of Sport convened in Barbados in 1999 that the then government of Trinidad and Tobago placed n the table for the consideration by Caricom the establishment of the Caribbean Games.
The Trinidad and Tobago Olympic Committee (TTOC) quickly supported the proposal.
Interestingly, the proposal came around the time that the National Olympic Committees (NOC) of the Caribbean region were involved in the creation of the Caribbean Association of National Olympic Committees ((CANOC). The latter organisation therefore wasted no time in embracing the concept of the Caribbean and developed the proposal into a full-fledged project for the consideration of Caricom.
The CANOC is an organisation that began as a coming together of the National Olympic Committees of the Caribbean. The initial concept focused on only those NOCs that came from countries that were English-speaking. This then extended to include the NOCs of Aruba and the Netherlands Antilles. Further extension facilitated approaches to the Spanish-speaking Caribbean – Cuba, Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico, and Haiti.
The Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico initially balked at the idea while Cuba readily accepted and so, too, did Haiti.
The region’s NOC leaders then thought it important to offer membership to those countries in the region that do not have NOCs but which are allowed to participate in the quadrennial Commonwealth Games through their respective Commonwealth Games Associations (CGA) – Anguilla, Montserrat and the Turks and Caicos Islands.
The president of CANOC is Steve Stoute of Barbados and the Secretariat of the organisation is based in Trinidad and Tobago where the organisation’s secretary, Elton Prescott, resides.
Since its establishment CANOC has assumed responsibility for the Caribbean Coaching Certification Programme (CCCP) and the coordination of this project is undertaken through an officer employed at the Secretariat.
CANOC has taken ownership of the Caribbean Games.
Initially the Cuban Olympic Committee expressed an interest in hosting the Games. However, it was decided that Trinidad and Tobago would be the first hosts with Cuba as the first option for the hosting of the second edition of this important event.
The concept behind the Caribbean Games in to facilitate our Caribbean people being allowed to see first hand the region’s best athletes competing against each other. This is very important since for many years the region has been able to hold its own in many international sport competitions and our peoples have had to contend with watching them on television because of the prohibitive costs related to getting to the actual competition venue.
The belief is that the time has come for the region to bring home its stars and allow them to perform at their best before their own people. The big challenge here is creating the mechanisms that would achieve this feat. It is no secret that the likes of an Asafa Powell is now at a level where his appearance fees are extremely high. The same may be said of George Bovell, the swimmer. Many are therefore asking whether a sense of patriotism is enough to appeal to these mega star athletes such that they would come home to compete before their own people.
Given the penchant for money in professional sport in the contemporary period there are many sport administrators who believe that unless the Caribbean Games brings in prize money or the CANOC persuades the governments of the respective countries from which these athletes come to meet their financial demands to participate, the chances of having the best athletes of the Caribbean on show are extremely slim.
No decision has as yet been made in respect of precisely how the CANOC would deal with this major challenge.
CANOC insisted from the very beginning that the Caribbean games should be manageable and so agreed on a minimum of five sporting disciplines and a maximum of seven. There are three core sports – Athletics, Swimming and Netball (the lone all female sport).
2009 Caribbean Games
Plans for the 2009 Caribbean Games have begun in earnest with the Organising Committee of the Caribbean Games (OCOG) in place and a staff now located at offices established at the Hasely Crawford Stadium, Trinidad.
The host country is allowed to determine which other sporting disciplines it would include in the programme based on knowledge of the local circumstances and the relative popularity of the sport involved. Trinidad and Tobago has chosen Boxing and Volleyball (Beach and Indoor).
Unfortunately there are problems associated with the provision of adequate facilities for the hosting of swimming that would satisfy the requirements of the international federation (FINA) in a timely manner. The decision was then taken by CANOC on the advice of the OCOG to include Tennis as its replacement on the Games programme for 2009.
The dates for the Games are 13 – 19 July 2009.
The government of Trinidad and Tobago has already committed some $35m TT (approximately US$5.6m) towards the success of the Games. It has pledged to underwrite the cost of the Games.
The OCOG has already commissioned a Games logo and the mascot will be named following a region-wide competition. The Games itself was officially launched in Trinidad and Tobago in January 2008 with the feature address delivered by the President of Trinidad and Tobago, George Maxwell Richards. The plan is to have several launches across member countries of CANOC and in this regard a launch was conducted in Basseterre, St Kitts/Nevis during the 37th annual Carifta Games on Monday 24 April at which the feature address was delivered by that country’s Prime Minister, Denzil Douglas.
In March the OCOG also publicly announced and accredited the first two Event Ambassadors of the 2009 Caribbean Games, Messrs Hasely Crawford, Trinidad and Tobago’s lone Olympic gold medalist and Ato Boldon, the nation’s most decorated Olympian and sprinter.
In the case of Athletics (17 – 19 July), the competition will establish standards to be met by willing participants and will allow a maximum entry per event of two athletes per country and only one team per country per relay event. Competition would be at the Hasely Crawford Stadium.
Boxing would witness competitions (13 – 18 July) in 11 weight categories – 48kg, 51kg, 54kg, 57kg, 60kg, 64kg, 69kg, 75kg, 81kg, 91kg, +91kg, with a maximum entry per category of one person per country. Competition would be at the Woodbrook Youth Facility.
The Netball competition will involve eight top teams selected based on the rankings as per the international federation (IFNA). Competition will be held during the period 15 – 19 July at the Jean Pierre Complex.
The aforementioned three competitions will be held in close proximity with each other forming something of a Games Ring as is the custom at Olympic Games.
Tennis will be held at Shaw Park, Tobago and will feature a maximum of three male and three female players per country during the period 13 – 19 July.
Beach Volleyball will be conducted at the Beach Volleyball Facility at Chaguanas and involves 16 male and 16 female teams, during the period 14 – 17 July. The Indoor Volleyball competition would be held at the UWI SPEC (14 – 19 July) featuring six male and six female teams. The selection of teams for both competitions would be based on the NORCECA rankings as at September 2008.
A call to rally
The entire Caribbean is therefore being called to work collectively for the success of the 2009 Caribbean Games. Indeed, it is hoped that each of the participating countries would somehow prevail upon their very best athletes to be present and engage in a tremendous global showcasing of the Caribbean through sport.
The time to rally is now.