PEP COLUMN: Victory for the Caribbean in Montego Bay
In the wake of the just concluded 40th edition of the CARIFTA Games, the good news coming out of Jamaica is that the discipline of sports and the goodwill generated by the young athletes of the Caribbean can and will overcome the separatism and xenophobic posturing of the more backward elements of our regional political directorate.
The “track and field” pundits may declare that Jamaica won an historic 27th consecutive title at these CARIFTA Games, but the real winner was the precious ideal of Caribbean integration.
All those who had eyes to see and ears to hear could not help but be impressed by the manner in which the vexed issue of the deterioration in relations between the governments of Barbados and Jamaica was skilfully and responsibly addressed and ameliorated within the confines of the Catherine Hall Stadium in Montego Bay, Jamaica.
The positive tone of regional brotherhood was set at the very beginning of the games, when Jamaica’s Minister of Sport, Olivia Grange, extended a special welcome to the Barbadian athletes during the opening ceremony, and assured them that Jamaica loves them.
But this was a mere prelude to the spellbinding performance of the doyen of Jamaica’s track and field commentators – Mr Bobby Fray – who performed the role of in-house commentator and analyst at the Catherine Hall Stadium. Over and over again, Mr Fray, in his inimitable cultured Jamaican accent, brought home to the crowd the vitality, beauty and accomplishments of our collective Caribbean civilization, and the unique role that the little 166-square mile island of Barbados has played in the construction of that civilization.
Indeed, Fray’s erudite and inspiring oratory helped to create an atmosphere conducive to an unfolding of Caribbean excellence, and the young athletes of our region did not disappoint.
Although pride of place must go to the triumphant Jamaicans, excellence radiated from every corner of the Caribbean, as evidenced by Bahamas’ Anthonique Strachan copping the title of Most Outstanding Athlete and winning the Austin Sealy trophy.
But surely, one of the most inspiring stories of the 40th CARIFTA Games centred around the performance of the Barbados team.
When all the dust had settled, the scoreboard showed that Barbados had amassed 28 medals, including nine golds, and had secured second place in the medals table. This constituted a tremendous improvement in the performance of a Barbados team that has been lagging way behind Trinidad and Tobago and the Bahamas in recent years.
Barbados’ individual heroes were Akela Jones, Cindy Forde, Jerrad Mason, Shamar Rock and Matthew Wright, all of whom were multiple medal winners.
But clearly, the Barbados achievement was based on a very impressive collective team effort.
Kudos must therefore be extended to Esther Maynard, president of the Amateur Athletic Association of Barbados, and to the coaching and management teams.
The Barbadian athletes and the supporters who followed them to Jamaica were excellent ambassadors of their country; where irresponsible politicians had sowed antagonism and bitterness, they brought friendship, understanding and healing.