Grieving Donna Raynor hits out at ‛disrespectful’ NACAC over Carifta Games cancellation
The decision to cancel the Carifta Games could not have come at a worse time for Donna Raynor, who, apart from being caught totally off-guard, has had to deal with profound personal loss.
It was only three weeks ago, in the space of four days, that both her parents passed. Add to that the events of the past 48 hours, and the manner in which they were communicated to the would-be host organisation, and it has proved a difficult pill to swallow.
Central to the edict released on Monday night by the governing North American, Central American and Caribbean Athletics Association — which The Royal Gazette gained a copy of before breaking the local exclusive — was the insistence by the Bermuda Government that all unvaccinated travellers be subjected to a mandatory, 14-day quarantine at their own expense.
With more than half of Carifta athletes aged under 16, many coming from countries where vaccination at that age is not an option, NACAC took the unpopular decision to cancel the Games for only the second time in its 49-year history.
Raynor appreciates how uncertain the situation has been through the global pandemic, but, as a ranking member within NACAC, did not expect to be informed of a cancellation through a group e-mail.
“I found out when everybody else found out, which is very disrespectful,” she said. “A decision did not have to be made at the beginning of May; it could have been made at the end of May.”
Raynor said the Bermuda National Athletics Association had been looking forward to hosting the Carifta Games after winning the bid in April 2018. “We’ve been planning for 2½ years, arranging volunteers and having meetings every single week,” she added.
The Games were initially called off in April 2020, with Bermuda reconfirmed as hosts for 2021 while Guyana agreed to wait until 2022. Dates this year subsequently changed twice because of Covid-19 — first because of a spike in cases and then because of a clash with regional examinations in the Caribbean.
In the build-up to the 2020 Carifta Games, thousands of dollars were spent on banners for buses, posters, medals and even the Government having the track relaid at the National Sports Centre.
“We were three weeks away from hosting these Games,” Raynor said in rebutting one of the claims made by NACAC in its release. “From a financial standpoint, we had to take care of everything. If we didn’t have the financial resources, we wouldn’t have had it.
“We got sponsorship from Government and sponsorship money from Pan Am Sports to relay the track for Carifta.”
The BNAA president is upset that the communication between the local organising committee and NACAC, which she says was always good, broke down when the decision was taken to call off Carifta — and claims there was no discussion with BNAA to seek its input.
“It wasn’t how our discussion was going,” she explained. “The discussion was we recognise that it was not going to be the same, but then when it came down to it, they were like ’it’s all or nothing’.
“Then they sent out an e-mail to everybody saying Carifta is cancelled. There was no discussion and no process. The interesting thing is that every time [NACAC president] Mike Sands and I talked, it was ‛we don’t want to say that word ‛cancelled’; we’re going to make it work, even if it is not what it used to be’.
“All of a sudden this word ‛cancelled’ comes into play without any discussion with us. We had 19-year-olds last year who lost the opportunity to compete in their last Carifta, and possibly gain an athletic scholarship.
“We’re doing it for a second year when we really don’t have to — 19-year-olds who will again lose the chance to compete in their last Carifta and possibly receive an athletic scholarship.”
BNAA and NACAC had pushing ahead together with putting on the Carifta Games in Bermuda even after the dates changed twice this year.
“When we postponed the Games, we said let’s do this strategically because we’ve got sponsors that we need to contact,” Raynor said. “And then let’s do a joint press release. I don’t know what happened to all of that!”
Raynor, who became the BNAA president in April 2009, had planned to step down in September after a fifth successful hosting of the Games and second under her charge.
Any involvement in righting this perceived wrong is too soon to be entertained. “I’m not even thinking about that,” she said. “I don’t think it’s going to be in Bermuda anytime soon.
“Do you even think the Government is going to approve it after all this?
“Our country was one of the countries that started Carifta. People like Clive Longe and Randy Benjamin.
“The plan we had in place was for it to be bigger and better [than 2012, the last time Bermuda was host]. We were looking at having a tremendous Carifta Games here in 2021.”