The Gleaner: KINGSTON, Jamaica – With Jamaica having five months to organise and execute next year’s Carifta Games, Local Organising Committee (LOC) chairman, Mike Fennell, said that they are targeting balanced protocols to facilitate a full fan-return for the regional meet.

Other concerns for the LOC include financing, which Fennell hopes will have corporate support, in addition to government assistance to fund and execute the event, which is estimated to cost J$150 million.

Fennell, who is an experienced sports administrator, was named to lead the LOC by the Jamaica Athletics Administrative Association (JAAA) for the Carifta Games scheduled to be held next April during the Easter weekend. The meet got government support recently, pending approval of health protocols.

Jamaica was asked to host the annual competition after Guyana indicated that it was no longer capable of hosting the event.

Fennell said that the immediate task will be the finalisation of the health protocols, and he says he is hoping for a more balanced framework that not only guarantees safety, but less restriction of movement to accommodate participants and potential fans.

“The main area which gives us concern is trying to forecast the protocols that would be in place for the Easter weekend. We are trying to see and we are hoping that the protocols will be far better than it is now for having events. And that is one of the key considerations in hosting the event,” Fennell told The Sunday Gleaner.

While not giving specifics regarding potential measures like vaccination requirements, Fennell said that securing a balanced framework will be crucial to staging the event.

“If it is too difficult to come here and compete, then that will restrict the number of participants that we have,” Fennell related. “We are expecting 800 of them. The protocols affect all areas and, therefore, we have to ensure that without sacrificing any well-being or welfare that there are protocols that we can work with.”

The Carifta Games have not been held since 2019 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The 2021 competition was scheduled to take place in Bermuda, but after the dates were pushed back twice, it was ultimately cancelled because of COVID-19 concerns and travel restrictions.

FULL CAPACITY TARGET

On the back of the National Stadium hosting its first event with fans in 20 months, at Jamaica’s World Cup qualifier against the United States on Tuesday, Fennell says that they are setting a target to have fans at full capacity for the event.

“If you look all around the world, in England and in Europe and in the United States, they have full stadiums. There is no reason why we can’t get to that. We must set that as our objective,” Fennell said.

Despite the short window, Fennell has expressed confidence in the local athletic framework to host the event.

“None of this can happen without money. And we see that we need some sponsors on board. We are expecting help from the Government, but we need sponsors, and it is a fantastic opportunity for sponsors to come on board because they will get more than their money’s worth,” Fennell said.

JAAA president, Garth Gayle, said that discussions are “far advanced” with the ministries of Health, Sport and Tourism, and look to have a successful staging coinciding with the 60th year of Jamaica’s Independence, as well as the 90th anniversary of the JAAA.

“All these government agencies are now coming on board. We are confident that we will have a successful staging of Carifta. All of these milestones are going to be in 2022. We are happy about it. It’s a good time to be in the sport of track and field,” Gayle said.