CARIFTA Games - History


In 1972, Austin Sealy, then president of the Amateur Athletic Association of Barbados, inaugurated the CARIFTA Games to mark the transition from the Caribbean Free Trade Association (CARIFTA) to the Caribbean Community (CARICOM). CARIFTA was meant to enhance relations between the English-speaking countries of the Caribbean after the dissolution of the West Indies Federation, but the CARIFTA Games took that idea a step further, including the French and Dutch Antilles in an annual junior track and field championship meet.

The meet normally runs over three days during the Easter period and includes over 150 separate events. The Games has two age categories for boys and girls: under-17 and under-20, the latter in line with the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) guidelines for junior athletes. The meet is run entirely under IAAF rules.

According to IAAF President, Lamine Diack, CARIFTA is "on par with the World Championships." The meet is considered one of the best development meets in world athletics. Having started out on grass tracks, with athletes staying in schools or other similar temporary shelter, the CARIFTA Games have come a long way. College and university coaches and scouts from the United States make their way to the Games each year, in a bid to identify up-and-coming athletes.

The Games have produced World Record holders, Usain Bolt, Darrel Brown, World and Olympic Champions such as Veronica Campbell-Brown of Jamaica, Kim Collins of St Kitts-Nevis and Pauline Davis-Thompson of the Bahamas, Alleyne Francique of Grenada and Obadele Thompson of Barbados. CARIFTA has spawned administrators like Dean Greenaway, President of the British Virgin Islands Athletics Association.

In the early years, a handful of territories (Barbados, Trinidad & Tobago, Bahamas, Martinique, Guadeloupe, Bermuda) had facilities appropriate for hosting what really is a world-class meet. Since 2000, though, Grenada, Turks & Caicos, St Kitts-Nevis and St Lucia have built brand new stadia and hosted the CARIFTA Games. The Games have also been held on Tobago and in Montego Bay, Jamaica, which became the 14th different venue in 2011.

The CARIFTA Games are normally sponsored by regional companies including the National Gas Company of Trinidad & Tobago Ltd and Guardian Holdings. In 2009, telecommunications company, LIME Caribbean signed on as a presenting sponsor, providing finance to the local organising committee, direct assistance to national teams and live coverage of the Games on TV across the Caribbean, as well as via Internet streaming.

The Games are hosted directly under the auspices of the North and Central American and Caribbean Confederation of the IAAF, more commonly known as NACAC. Each country may enter two athletes per event and up to six athletes may be entered for relay events (with two acting as substitutes) and three athletes in the combined events such as pentathlon or heptathlon.

The 100 and 200 metres World and Olympic record holder Usain Bolt holds the 200m metres record in the under 20 category and the 400m in the under 17 category. He previously had both under 17 and under 20 200m and 400m records but lost his 200m under 17 record in 2007 to fellow Jamaican Dexter Lee who would go on to win consecutive 100 m World Junior titles. Bolt lost the 400m under 20 record to World Youth silver medalist and World Junior Champion Kirani James of Grenada Kirani reset the 400m record in Cayman Islands in 2010, at which venue Jamaica's Odane Skeen also established a new under-17 record for the 200m.

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