Donna Raynor ‛disappointed’ by Carifta Games cancellation – and NACAC
The off-again, on-again Carifta Games are officially off, The Royal Gazette can reveal.
The news that young athletes around the Caribbean, and in particular in Bermuda, have dreaded was confirmed last night by governing body the North American, Central American and Caribbean Athletics Association.
The scheduling of the Games has been beset by problems since the original postponement from April 2020 not long after the outset of the global pandemic.
A spike in Covid-19 cases in Bermuda from mid-December into the turn of the year led to new dates around Easter Weekend 2021 being scrapped.
This was followed by a move to the first week of July, which was summarily changed because of an unforeseen clash with school examination dates in the Caribbean.
NACAC and the local organising committee led by Donna Raynor, the president of the Bermuda National Athletics Association, finally settled on August 13 to 15.
But a succession of changes in public-health regulations brought on by the appearance of a dangerous and highly transmissible variant of Covid-19 on island — which has contributed to 19 deaths since April 1 to swell the overall total to 31 — and an aggressive vaccination programme have had a deleterious knock-on effect.
Keith Joseph, the NCAC general secretary, said in a statement circulated among “Carifta Family Members”: “NACAC understands the impact that another cancellation of our premier annual junior competition will have on our young athletes. Unfortunately, we have carefully taken all factors into consideration and are left with no option but to cancel the Carifta Games 2021.”
Among those factors are the Bermuda Government’s mandatory 14-day quarantine policy for unvaccinated travellers at their own expense, accommodation arrangements that “have been well below the required number of rooms for the traditional Carifta Games”, and the lack of additional funding available to the local organising committee.
“While Bermuda allows athletes from 16 years to be vaccinated, the majority of our Carifta Family Members are in countries where the authorities only allow vaccinations for persons 18 years and older,” Joseph continued.
“We cannot host the event without the under-17s, who, from our vantage point, are as integral to the event as the under-20s. We are not agreed to having an edition of the Carifta Games that does not engage the traditional categories and which disenfranchise a significant number of athletes.”
Raynor, when contacted by The Royal Gazette last night, rebutted some of the assertions made in the release, but first expressed her dismay on how the news of the cancellation was communicated.
“Yes, we are very disappointed that NACAC has cancelled the Carifta Games,” she said. “We found out that the Games were cancelled the same time as the other Carifta countries in an e-mail from NACAC, which we are not happy about.
“We were preparing for the Games and as you know have been for the past two years. A lot of work and effort down the drain.”
Raynor had accepted that the Games would not look the same in the present environment, but accepts that the Government’s vaccination stance — which has caused great consternation among Bermuda residents — was the straw that broke the camel’s back.
“Unfortunately, when the Government made the decision that all unvaccinated persons had to quarantine for 14 days, NACAC did not want to discuss a compromise,” she said.
“Of course this would affect our 14 and 15-year-olds, and in some countries who only were vaccinating over 18, the 16 and 17-year olds as well.
“It was either all or nothing, even though it had been discussed that the Carifta Games in this Covid-19 pandemic probably would not look the same.
“We were ready and recognised the work we would have had to put in because of the pandemic, we felt that we could do it. We had just received from the Government that they would be willing to work with us for the Games, so very unfortunate that NACAC went ahead and cancelled the Games.”
She went on further to rebut Joseph’s claim that hotel beds and funds were an issue.
The comment “this suggests that for much of the planning since the postponement from the traditional Easter weekend, accommodation has been a problem for the LOC” gives the clearest indication that a rift within the “family” has formed.
“We did have sufficient hotel rooms which was the same amount that we had for 2020,“ said Raynor, who plans to counter NACAC’s version of events more formally.
“Also, as far as finances were concerned, we had sufficient to host the Games and did not require any extra funds from the Government.
“We are putting together our response, so that the real facts are recorded.”
So a sorry end to a rollercoaster ride of emotions that began with the excitement on April 2, 2018 of pipping Guyana to be host nation for a fifth time, and continued for more than three years with the drive from Raynor and her organising team to engage the wider Bermuda community.
But all reprieves have been exhausted and Guyana, which stepped aside for the first postponement last year, will be host for Carifta Games 2022.