A carnival atmosphere engulfed the National Sports Centre (NSC) last night as the 41st LIME Carifta Games was officially opened under a colourful array of pageantry.
In front of hundreds of fans sporting their countries' colours, athletes from the 27 nations were introduced as the parade marched around the track to huge applause.
The Bermuda Regiment band added to the festive atmosphere which was enhanced with the arrival of Jamaica, Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago, and most notably the Bahamas whose fans brought musical instruments to cheer their contingent.
As the hosts, Bermuda brought up the rear, their team of 55 led by flag bearer Quaashie Douglas, who had been forced to withdraw from competition because of injury.
The event recognised Sonja Smith, a former Bermuda shot putt champion at the Games, for her outstanding performances in years past.
On hand for the annual spectacle were officials and dignitaries from the respective countries as well as Bermuda Governor Sir Richard Gosney, Premier Paula Cox and Sports Minister Glenn Blakeney along with Bermuda Track and Field Association President (BTFA) Donna Watson.
“I would like to welcome all officials and athletes that have travelled from their countries to compete here,” said chairman of the Carifta Games and BTFA president Watson
“A lot of hard work has gone into the organisation of the Games and a big thank you goes out to our sponsors and our volunteers who are helping during the three days.
“To the athletes and coaches who have prepared all year for this competition to compete at the highest level, good luck and I wish you the best of luck.”
Braving blustery weather to watch the opening march led by Anguilla, local fans rose to their feet to give the Bermuda athletes a rousing ovation.
The national team walked proudly around the stadium as spectators waved the Bermuda flag.
The evening's activities included performances by local entertainers and the always popular Gombeys.
Sir Richard also welcomed the visiting athletes but underlined his support for the local contingent.
“There are a lot of athletes that will showcase their abilities throughout the meet and although I will be rooting for Bermuda I will also be wishing no harm to any of the athletes, both local and visitors, nor to officials as we look to make these Games one to remember,” he said.
Premier Cox echoed the Governor's sentiments, clearly lying out where her support was going.
“It is with great privilege that I welcome all of the athletes to Bermuda and wish you all the best success possible, but I am biased to my homeland and will be looking for our local athletes to perform well here on local soil,” she said.
Minister Blakeney added: “I know the excitement of the athletes ready to perform for us is very high and I want them to know that we are rooting for all of them, not just our own, during the Games.
“This event is the second biggest in the world after the World Junior Championships and we want to help those on show this weekend to build character and personality so that they may leave this competition with a good feeling and sense of success.”
The competition officially gets out of the blocks this morning
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