Sands: Barbados not hosting CARIFTA 53’ a disappointment

President of the North American Central American and Caribbean Athletics (NACAC)
Mike Sands admits he was disappointed to learn Barbados was no longer bidding
to host the 2026 Caribbean Free Trade Association (CARIFTA) Games.

Speaking in an exclusive interview with Nation Online, Sands said it was regrettable
that the inaugural host of the regional junior track and field championship in 1972
would not be capable of staging the 53rd edition of the CARIFTA Games.

Sands said “It would be remiss of me if I didn’t say that I was disappointed (that
Barbados pulled out of the running to host the 2026 CARIFTA Games).
Barbados is a founding member of the CARIFTA family.”

He added “However that is not something that should be held against them
because obviously the facilities are necessary and you have to also look at the
priorities and the need to do certain things. Unfortunately the stadium will not be
ready and as a result they took the position to at least give us sufficient notice that
they couldn’t host it. We have to respect and appreciate it and now we have time to
seek an alternative.”

When asked how he felt about the island’s intention to host the 2028 CARIFTA
Games instead, the NACAC president revealed it would please the association.

“We would like to see as many founding members do it (host CARIFTA),” Sands
began. “Any time they step forward to do it, that is exciting for us because at the end
of the day it is very expensive and the onus is on the potential host to step forward.
We can not force members to do it. When they come forward, they would have had
their request authority from their Governments to express their bid because at the
end of the day it is the Governments for the most part that really pick up the tab.”

Hosting CARIFTA has been a fairly costly exercise in recent years. This year’s host
Grenada spent way over EC $10 million according to Grenada Athletics Association

(GAA) President Conrad Francis. When The Bahamas hosted the 2023 Games, it cost
$6.8 million for them to host and similarly when it was in Jamaica in 2022, the first
year since the COVID-19 pandemic after a two-year hiatus, it was estimated to cost
just under US $1 million.

Despite these financial challenges that come with hosting this competition, Sands is
bullish about its future.

“In no way am I concerned (about the future of CARIFTA),” he said. “When you look at
when CARIFTA started in 1972, it is now the longest running junior championship
anywhere in the world. What it has produced for us in terms of the fact the
Caribbean is known as a sporting region and I would dare say athletics is top of that
list. When you look across the spectrum at the persons that would have come
through the CARIFTA system, many of them today are in high society. Whether it be
politics or any other high profession, I don’t believe they or any of their Governments
would ever allow CARIFTA to die.

He concluded “It is a question of finding the proper funding and the fact that it
moves around to different islands helps a lot. It gives the upcoming nations the
opportunity to plan properly and go to corporate sponsors or going to Government
or a combination of the two. There is an economic boost to hosting the event too
from the rental cars to accommodations, restaurants and souvenirs. There needs to
be a collaboration from the federation, the Government, the tourism board so that
everyone can come together and make the event successful.”

Barbados has announced intentions to the NACAC to bid for the rights to host the
2028 CARIFTA Games once their stadium is completed.

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