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CASI awards to return next year in Grenada

Published:Sunday | November 23, 2014 | 12:00 AM

Leighton Levy, Sunday Gleaner Writer

After a five-year hiatus, the Caribbean Awards for Sports Icons (CASI) looks set to be held in Grenada in September 2015.

Al Hamilton, veteran journalist and photographer and the man behind the award that honours regional sporting icons, revealed to The Sunday Gleaner last week that the Grenadian government has basically signed off on hosting the event.

"I am going over to Grenada in a matter of weeks to meet with the permanent secretary in the Ministry of Sport and Youth with regard to the government of Grenada, through their high commission in London, giving approval for the staging of the CASI awards in St Georges in September 2015," Hamilton said.

It would be the third staging of the award that was first held in Jamaica in 2008 and then in the Bahamas in 2009, during which time athletes like Sir Vivian Richards, Lindy Delaphena, Mike McCallum, and Veronica Campbell-Brown were recognised for their contributions to sport. However, the awards ceremony has not been held since for a number of reasons.

world recession

"With the world recession and other problems, we sort of pulled back," Hamilton explained, while revealing that there were plans to have it in Guyana this year, but the political climate there was not conducive. "A wise man sees trouble and hides himself," said Hamilton, who migrated to the United Kingdom in 1962.

The CASI awards have a special meaning to Hamilton, who advocates for acknowledging the important role athletes play in regional integration and unity.

"Living in the UK for more than 50 years and as someone who has been closely involved with Caribbean sport, what we really haven't done from a regional standpoint is project the jewels that we have," said Hamilton, who in February was presented with a Certificate of Merit for his selfless promotion of Caribbean sports icons at the RJR Sport Foundation's National Sportsman and Sportswoman of the Year Awards.

"We are looking at CASI to remedy that. We have someone like the last living W, (Everton Weekes), nothing has been done regionally for him. We have people like Cynthia Thompson, who was at the 1948 Olympics. Yes, we have done fragmented stuff, but we want to do it as a region. There is a need to just say 'thank you' from a regional basis."

He believes that if CARICOM and Caribbean unity is to survive, sport has to play a significant role.

"When the West Indies Federation crashed in the late 1950s, it was a number of years later, I think it was 1974, before the Treaty of Chaguaramas, before we really started to think seriously about regionality. If that regionality is to be truly achieved, then sport has to be one of the binding components to make it happen," he said.

The CASI Award was established in 2007 after Hamilton came to the realisation that some of the finest athletes in the world were from the Caribbean and said he felt the need to do it.