Size in Caribbean sports conflict

Barbados, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago and Guyana, made the world stage in the form of members of the West Indies cricket team in the early part of the 20th Century. Jamaica later established itself as an athletics nation when it burst on the Olympic scene in 1948’s London Olympics, but making a more indelible mark four-years later in Helsinki, Finland with an amazing medal haul for what the world perceived as a small nation. Unfortunately for us in the Caribbean, Jamaica seemed to have perceived its Olympic/Athletics success as further opportunity to lord it over the rest of the Caribbean and that has been the case ever since.

In Caribbean sport therefore, the politics of the region continued unabated. The sport leaders behaved precisely like the political leaders and took with them their athletes in terms of the psychological superiority syndrome.

Thus in the world of athletics, for example, when in the 1980s Bernard Nottage of the Bahamas, in his capacity as head of the Central American and Caribbean Athletics Confederation, CACAC, called on the regional athletics bodies to rally together to force the International Amateur Athletics Federation, IAAF, – now the International Association of Athletics Federation – to put an end to the then undemocratic practices of voting disparity within the IAAF and to accept instead voting equity among its membership by allowing ‘one country, one vote’ it came as no surprise that Jamaica objected. Jamaica was the only Caribbean country that raised objection to what was a Caribbean initiative. The thinking appears to have been that Jamaica had done enough to join the ranks of the more developed sporting nations of the world and therefore should not be encumbered by the smaller minions of the Caribbean. It was the Federation experience of the 1950s and 1960s being repeated.

Happily and ironically the then President of the IAAF, an Italian, Prime Nebiolo, saw what one of our own Member Federations could not see, the importance of forging an IAAF Family where we are all equal. As Primo put it before the IAAF Congress for approval at the Congress in Barcelona, 1989: “We are an athletics family, larger than even the United Nations.” Primo Nebiolo saw what one of our own Caribbean countries could not envision, the inevitable development of the global reality and allowed the change to be accepted without even a single vote being cast. Jamaica was not happy then and remains unhappy now.