Janet Silvera, Senior Gleaner Writer
SCHOELCHER, Martinique:Martinique says it will spend more than €500,000 (J$70 million) to stage the 2014 Carifta Games in its country.
The announcement comes six months after the Eastern Caribbean French-speaking island was awarded the games, at the Carifta Congress in The Bahamas.
Addressing the media at the recent State of the Industry Conference at the Madiana Palais des Congres Convention Centre in Fort-de-France, Susan Garcia, the woman in charge of Caribbean International Affairs, Martinique Athletics, said the government and private sector collaboration would cover the funding needed to stage the event.
"Carifta usually turns around US$300,000. We are trying to ensure that the countries participating pay the least amount of money as possible," assured Garcia, adding that Martinique was equipped to host some 28 nations and a total of 600 athletes over the Easter weekend of April 18-20, 2014 at the Fort-de-France Stadium.
"The event will attract at least 1,000 persons to the country," Garcia told some 30 international media attending the tourism conference.
Making reference to the likes of Jamaica's Usain Bolt, Merlene Ottey, Veronica Campbell-Brown, Aleen Bailey and Antigua's Kim Collins - who started their road to fame on the Carifta track - she promised that the vanguard junior athletics competition will be the best Carifta of the century.
"Our main objective is quite simple: making this, the best."
Her only concern she said was the glaring absence of Belize from the games over the past few years.
"We are making a call for Belize to become a part of the games. Belize has not been coming for a number of years, we want all Carifta nations this year."
Garcia said Martinique was Caribbean and proud, and during Carifta 2014 will showcase the talent of junior athletes from as far north as Bermuda to Suriname in the south.
The games will be held at an International Athletic Association Federation-approved nine-lane stadium that has the capacity to accommodate some 15,000 patrons.
Created in 1972 by Austin Sealy, then president of the Amateur Athletic Association of Barbados, Carifta has enhanced relations through sports, particularly between the English-speaking countries in the Caribbean.
The French and Dutch-speaking nations were accepted to the fore in 1974.