Arthur Sealy Honoured By Prime Minister
With the Carifta Games being regarded as his “greatest achievement in sport”, Austin Sealy was recognized by Prime Minister Perry Christie during the 2013 sporting event showcasing the best athletes in the Caribbean.
And it came as a complete surprise to Mr. Sealy, who thanked the Prime Minister for the tribute – a conch shell mounted on a base – recognizing him for his outstanding contribution to sports in the region, during the opening ceremonies of the 42nd Carifta Games at the Thomas A. Robinson National Stadium.
“It was a complete surprise. Your Prime Minister is an old friend. We go back many, many years and so was Dr. Bernard Nottage. I certainly felt honoured and I accepted it on behalf of my colleagues and myself. The people I really salute over the 42 years is the leadership of the federations because they are the ones who have been keeping the movement together,” Mr. Sealy said.
He added that because of his interest in sports, he continues to make himself available when requested to do so.
A banker by profession, Austin Sealy was one of the men who inaugurated the Carifta Games in his hometown Barbados in 1972. He has served on the Barbados Olympic Association, the CAC Sports Organization, a team official of the Commonwealth Games, the Pan American Games and the Olympic games.
In 2010 he was chosen as chairman of the Commonwealth Games and is also a member of the International Olympic Committee.
The 2013 Carifta Games was held under the theme: “Celebrating One Caribbean” from March 29-April 1.
“The games were initiated in 1972 when I was president of the athletic body in Barbados and it was intended to be the highlight of the 25th anniversary of membership within the IAAF.
“We did not have lots of senior athletes in the region and we said, why don’t we start afresh. At that time, the political union was called CARIFTA – Caribbean Free Trade Agreement, subsequently it became CARICOM – Caribbean Community. But we never changed the name or the athletic movement,” he said.
The 10 member countries in the CARIFTA political movement all welcomed the initiative and came to Barbados for the 1972 event. The Bahamas made its initial appearance in 1973 and hosted the games seven times.
“The games have grown from strength to strength. For the last 20 years, certainly 95 percent of the medalists at the Olympic games level, have all come from the Carifta games rank,” Mr. Sealy said.
The Prime Minister also made mention of this during his opening remarks on Friday, March 29 naming accomplished athletes such as Pauline Davis-Thompson, Chris Brown, Usain Bolt and others.
“We needed the competition. The kids work hard at the junior level and then there was that missing link into the international scene. Carifta and its progress over the years started to attract the attention of coaches in the North American colleges and schools and we (have) certainly seen excellent results in the 42 years,” Mr. Sealy said.
So much is his contribution to the sporting world regionally and internationally; the most decorated athlete is awarded the Austin Sealy Award in his honour.
The Bahamian athletes who have received this coveted award are: Mary Ann Higgs, 1978; Laverne Eve, 1982 and 1983; Pauline Davis, 1984; Debbie Ferguson, 1995; and Anthonique Strachan, 2012.
“I am honoured to have the trophy named after myself. Some of us and I am one of them, we try to discourage the idea of having a winning country. The athletes are here as individuals striving for the individual gold, silver or bronze and there is no way the smaller countries who have a dozen athletes at most, would certainly never have as many winners as a country with a full slate of 52 to 55 athletes. But it makes for healthy competition and keeps the interest high.”
Mr. Sealy said he was grateful to still be able to enjoy the games and having young people know not only about his contribution to sports, but living legends throughout the region.
“You know they are going to be hearing the names without necessarily putting all the pieces together. We have had some outstanding pieces in Beijing and London,” he said.
By: Lindsay Thompson
Bahamas Information Services