Prime Minister Perry Christie expressed his pride in officially opening the 42nd Carifta Games on Friday.
Speaking during the opening ceremony at the Thomas Robinson National Stadium, he noted that this was the 7th time the Bahamas has hosted the regional games, which ran March 29 – April 1.
“It is with the greatest of pride that we today host over 600 of the finest athletes, coaches and officials from 26 countries in the inaugural regional sporting event for our new National Stadium which has been named in honour of the late Thomas Robinson, the Bahamas’ first internationally recognised track and field athlete, who died late last year,” Mr Christie said.
“I could not think of a more fitting opening event for this stadium. So Tommy my friend, I know as you observe the opening ceremony of these 42nd Annual Carifta games from your eternal resting place, I am assured that you share with all of us the joy and pride that is befitting this occasion.”
Mr Christie said since its completion, the stadium has come to symbolise the future of national sports in the Bahamas.
“It is a modern facility, designed to provide the best environment for training athletes and holding sports and cultural events. It holds thousands of enthusiastic supporters and fans; it is a stadium that, I hope, will do much to unite the people of the Bahamas.”
He added, “We owe a great debt of gratitude to the People’s Republic of China for their marvellous gift and for the construction of the stadium.”
The Prime Minister noted that as a former athlete, track and field sporting events are very close to his heart.
He said he represent a generation of Bahamian athletes who could not have imagined or even dreamt of competing in such a Bahamian stadium.
“It was therefore, not difficult for me, when the opportunity was presented to have made a decision to effect the construction of this stadium for and on behalf of Bahamian athletes who had made great strides in elevating and promoting our country in the field of international athletics.”
Prime Minister Christie said although the theme for these Games is “A Celebration of Caribbean Unity”, he feels Caribbean unity has always been the focus and the purpose of these games.
“When Austin Sealy, of Barbados, started the games in 1972, they were meant to enhance relations between the English-Speaking countries of the Caribbean after the dissolution of the West Indies Federation,” he said.
Mr Christie said over the years athletes have developed an appreciation and respect for one another at Carifta, which has been translated into admiration and support for each other whenever and wherever they perform on the international stage.
“For example, there is no Caribbean person who did not celebrate with the Jamaicans when Usain Bolt won both the 100 and 200 metre sprints and there is no Caribbean person who did not rejoice when the Bahamian Golden Knights took the gold in the 4 x 400 relay in the 2012 Summer Olympics, running down team USA on the last leg of the relay to thunderous cheers and applause from the crowds.
“Our sporting successes as a region help to unite us; we feel cohesion as a people with similar histories and culture.”