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CARIFTA tickets officially go on sale

With just 73 days to go before what International Association of Athletics Federations’ (IAAF) President Lord Sebastian Coe calls the most exciting and thrilling junior track and field competition in the western hemisphere, to come to these shores. The Local Organizing Committee for the 2018 FLOW CARIFTA Games (LOC) is trying to drum up support for Team Bahamas.

Special group rates have been offered since last month, but tickets officially went on sale yesterday as the LOC staged a ticket launch at the Thomas A. Robinson National Stadium – the venue for the 47th CARIFTA Games, set for the Easter holiday weekend, from March 30 to April 2, here in Nassau, The Bahamas. The opening ceremony is set for Good Friday, March 30, starting at 6 p.m. Competition will run from Saturday to Monday, with the morning sessions running from 9 a.m. to 12 noon, and the evening sessions taking place from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. In between sessions, the festive market will provide entertainment and cuisine to make it an all-day family affair.

LOC Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Rosamunde Carey, who is also the president of the Bahamas Association of Athletics Associations (BAAA), said that they are indeed excited to bring CARIFTA track and field back to The Bahamas. This will be the eighth time that The Bahamas hosts the grand junior athletics event – the most of any Caribbean nation.

“CARIFTA is the most exciting junior athletics championships in the Western Hemisphere, and we are indeed thrilled to be hosting it once again,” said Carey. “It’s going to be held over the Easter holiday weekend, and under the theme ‘Further, Faster and Higher’. Expectations and excitement are building, so much so that even though today is the launch of the ticket sales at the box office, group sales have already started and people have already begun purchasing seats. We encourage Bahamians to get their tickets early, and not wait until the mad rush at the end. Nothing beats the sweet sound of our Junkanoo music, and we’re set to see the gold rush of our athletes on the track.”

The CARIFTA Congos, a makeshift junkanoo contingent featuring participants from a few of the major groups, will entertain the CARIFTA crowd once again. They travel annually with The Bahamas’ CARIFTA team, and have become a staple on the CARIFTA agenda from year to year. Carey is encouraging Bahamians to come out and support Team Bahamas which is expected to be ratified after the CARIFTA trials in March.

Morning sessions are free of charge, and prices vary for the evening sessions, depending on the section. Gold tickets for seats on the lower level close to the finish line are priced at $20 each, silver tickets for seats at the upper levels close to the finish line are priced at $15 each, and bronze tickets for seats on the western grandstand closer to the start of the 100 meters (m) races are priced at $10 each. General admission tickets for seats on the eastern grandstand are priced at $5 each. There are also three-day passes available – $50 each for the gold section, $40 each for the silver section, and $25 each for bronze. Those discounted tickets expire on February 28.

“This is a family affair, so we are asking patrons to bring everyone out so that we could all enjoy the Caribbean flavored atmosphere, keen competition and enjoy the sweet sounds of junkanoo music from the CARIFTA Congos,” said Carey. “The concession stands will reflect the cuisine of the entire Caribbean. We just encourage everyone to come out early and get your tickets before February 28. They are all reasonably priced.”

LOC member Natasha Adderley echoed those sentiments.

“This is going to be a fun-filled event accompanied by the pulsating sound of our very own junkanoo group, the CARIFTA Congos, so we want everyone to come out and enjoy a much anticipated, thrilling event. The Congos are going to keep the games exciting as they have done at other CARIFTA Games around the Caribbean. We anticipate a sold out stadium, so we encourage Bahamians to get their tickets today. Get them now,” she charged.

Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture Michael Pintard was the first to purchase tickets yesterday, and he was quickly followed by gathered guests representing Jamaica, Trinidad & Tobago, Barbados and Dominica. The invited guests from foreign local associations from countries in the region were said to be enthusiastically scoping out the landscape of the stadium, marking out areas where they will purchase tickets to sit together as a country to cheer on their athletes.

Not to be outdone, representing the host nation, and also purchasing tickets yesterday were ‘Golden Girls’ Pauline Davis-Thompson and Eldece Clarke; and Bahamian former Olympic and World Champion Tonique Williams.

“I would like to congratulate the BAAA on a wonderful job they are doing and all of the persons who are assisting with organizing this CARIFTA Games. I would also like to welcome our extended family from throughout the region, who are here today, and will come in large numbers to support their various countries,” said the minister yesterday. “CARIFTA is an expensive undertaking, but it is more than worth the investment being made by the government and the corporate community. The BAAA and the local organizing committee have done a remarkable job. The bulk of the funds that will go into this CARIFTA is being raised by Corporate Bahamas and at least one major regional partner. That is a testament of what a federation is able to do when it is minded to look beyond government as a means of funding these programs. There is a very important model being established here, and I wish to congratulate the BAAA for a job well done in raising a tremendous amount of resources that will go toward these CARIFTA Games.”

Despite the bid for CARIFTA 2018 being won under the previous central administration, Minister Pintard said that it wasn’t a hard sell for the current government at all, in terms of honoring the commitment of being the host country.

“The government didn’t need to be sold on the value of CARIFTA. We’ve been intimately involved from the early days and we appreciate that sports is a means of national development and we are committed to utilizing sports persons throughout the country, past and present, in transmitting the kind of values that are necessary to develop our young people,” he said. “Once again, welcome to our guests and we invite the public to join us in purchasing tickets for these historic CARIFTA Games.”

Tickets are available for purchase at the box office for the CARIFTA Games, the Thomas A. Robinson National Stadium, from Monday to Friday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., and on Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tickets may also be purchased online by visiting the event’s website at cariftabahamas2018.com. Tickets may be reserved via e-mail, carifta2018bahamas@gmail.com, or through WhatsApp at (242) 427-2580.

The Bahamas is hosting the annual junior athletics regional competition for a record eighth time. The CARIFTA Games was last held in The Bahamas in 2013 when Shaunae Miller won the Austin Sealy award, given out to the meet’s most outstanding athlete.

Jamaica has won 41 of the 46 CARIFTA titles, including 33 straight dating all the way back to 1985. The Bahamas repeated twice and won four out of five titles between 1980 and 1984, and Bermuda won the other title, in 1975.

It is anticipated that fans will witness phenomenal performances from a high caliber of junior athletes from around the region. CARIFTA track and field has become a staple in the hearts of Bahamians, and 2018 promises to be another highly anticipated event.