Dr Daniel Johnson, the Bahamas Minister of Youth, Sport and Culture, in his key note address to open the first ever Commonwealth Games Federation Americas and Caribbean Region meeting in Bahamas, made the confident declaration that sport and youth are key to Bahamas national development plan.
Bahamas stepped in to host the 2017 Commonwealth Youth Games after the original host St Lucia had to withdraw due to financial constraints.
Johnson asserted that the Bahamas government believes that sport and sport tourism matter but the social imperative is not only Bahamas but the Caribbean. He pointed out that there are common problems in the Caribbean in respect of youth and young people and that the region’s sporting history carries a positive and aspirational narrative that the Caribbean should proudly embrace.
His message was well received by the Commonwealth Sport Leaders in the Americas and The Caribbean at the Queen Elizabeth Sport Complex which is capable of hosting six of the seven sports with the respective venues within walking distance of each other. A short distance away, a four to five field rugby complex will be completed for the opening ceremony of the 2017 Commonwealth Youth Games.
Bahamas is serious about sport. As you enter the arrival hall of their international airport, there are pictures of all their sport and Olympic icons. At the Queen Elizabeth Sport Complex, their sport and Olympic icons are also visible in photos. It is an eye catching and sobering display of walking their talk.
In respect of the accommodation for athletes and vistors for next year’s Commonwealth Youth Games- the proposed hotel options are two miles from the sporting venues - literally a stone’s throw.
If the show of sporting ambition, vision and infrastructure wasn’t enough, the Ministry of Youth, Sport and Culture is throwing its weight behind developing a Bahamas Carnival product separate from the renowned Bahamas Juckanoo celebration.
That Bahamas is serious about its tourism brand inclusive of sport, one is left in no doubt. The experience on arrival through immigration and customs and on departure is noteworthy as is the departure lounge at the airport.
Like all other Caribbean nations, Bahamas has their challenges. But their commitment and seriousness in respect of the role of sport as a key pillar of Bahamas national development is impressive.
Should Bahamas stay the course and deliver on their plans for sport, they will reap the rewards. It is a challenge to which T&T will have to respond. Collectively the Caribbean can be a significant force in global sport, not just from the competitive aspect, but in the economic aspect of global sport.
The major obstacle is finding the balance between fierce and hard competition on the field of play and working together to maximise the economic opportunities on offer.
Bahamas Commonwealth Games Association Secretary General Rommel Knowles said Bahamas, in stepping up to the plate to take the baton from St Lucia, had to do with a belief that the Caribbean region had to show the world that “The Commonwealth Sport Leaders appreciate the bigger picture for the region and sports in the region.”
Tomorrow around the Olympic world 100 days to go to the Rio 2016 Olympic Games opening ceremony will be centrestage. Let’s be ready.
• Brian Lewis is president of the T&T Olympic Committee ( TTOC ) and the T&T Commonwealth Games Association (TTCGA). The views expressed are not necessarily those of the Olympic Committee and Commonwealth Games Association.