Over 1,000 athletes and officials have arrived on the island nation of The Bahamas for the VIth Commonwealth Youth Games which begin tomorrow with an immersive and energetic Opening Ceremony which organisers promise will bring “a taste of Caribbean carnival to Commonwealth sport”. The joyful celebration of impactful sporting competition, personal development and international friendship will feature 1010 athletes, mostly aged 14-18, from 64 Commonwealth countries.
Across 6 days from 18-23 July, 96 Gold Medals will be contested in 9 sports – Athletics, Aquatics (Swimming), Beach Soccer, Boxing, Cycling (Road), Judo, Rugby Sevens, Tennis and Beach Volleyball. It will be the largest event the Bahamas has ever hosted and the first Commonwealth Games event to be held in the Caribbean for over 50 years, since the 1966 Commonwealth Games in Kingston, Jamaica.
The Prime Minister of the Commonwealth of the Bahamas, Dr Hubert Minnis said:
“There will be over 1000 athletes participating in these Games from nearly all of the countries of the Commonwealth and this in itself is a first for our nation. Many of the athletes have travelled great distances to be here and I hope that their experience in The Bahamas will be most rewarding, both in terms of the keen competition they will encounter and the cultural exchanges which this gathering will engender.
“I wish participants in the 2017 Commonwealth Youth Games every success and look forward to joining thousands of spectators who, I am certain, will enjoy the thrill of competition in nine sporting disciplines.”
Commonwealth Games Federation President Louise Martin CBE said:
“The stage is set for a uniquely Caribbean celebration of the young sporting Commonwealth. It has been a tremendous team effort with many different government and sporting agencies all pulling together. Everyone is committed to supporting the athletes, promoting an inclusive and positive youth agenda and making the most of this opportunity to showcase The Bahamas to the world.
“For many young athletes, the Commonwealth Youth Games will be their first taste of international competition or a multi-sport Games. I wish them all well in competition and look forward to cheering them on this week and throughout what I hope will be a long and successful future as proud athletes of the Commonwealth.”
The Opening Ceremony on Tuesday 18^th July is set to immerse Commonwealth visitors into Bahamian culture and its world-famous tradition of carnival parades, a vibrant musical celebration which acknowledges and recognises the Commonwealth diaspora and emancipation of former African slaves.
Dignitaries, spectators and athletes from around the Commonwealth, including Bahamian Governor General Dame Marguerite Pindling, Bahamian Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis MP, Commonwealth Secretary General Baroness Patricia Scotland and President of the Commonwealth Games Federation, Louise Martin CBE, will enjoy Caribbean entertainment and, for the first time ever at a Youth Games, the arrival of the Queen’s Baton Relay – travelling to the Bahamas in celebration of the Youth Games as it continues its epic journey to Gold Coast 2018. The event commences with the parade of nations, with the previous Youth Games host in 2015, Samoa, given the honour of entering the field of play first.
The youngest athlete is thirteen-year old Faith Khoo from Singapore, competing in the 100m and 200m Backstroke. Faith and her fellow team mates have also travelled the furthest to get to the Youth Games, travelling over 17,000km from Singapore. The home nation of The Bahamas is fielding the largest team with 95 athletes, followed by Australia (75), England (72), Canada (59) and Trinidad and Tobago (50). Competition also starts tomorrow in the nation’s capital Nassau – with Judo and Beach Volleyball getting underway (both appearing on the Youth Games schedule for the first time ever). Over 700 local volunteers are dedicated to ensure the Games run smoothly and that all guests receive a warm welcome to the Caribbean.
Chairman of the Organising Committee, Mr Wellington Miller said:
“The journey of preparation has been long but certainly worth the effort because the journey was about the young up and coming athletes of our Commonwealth of Nations. This will be a once in a lifetime opportunity for each athlete, coach and parent that has also taken this journey.”
Since their inception in 2000 in Edinburgh, Scotland, the Youth Games have for some, like Kirani James, Jessica Ennis-Hill, Chad le Clos and Caster Semenya, provided the springboard to future Commonwealth Games and World Championship glory. For many others, the Games offer a first taste of international multi-sport competition, nurturing young global sporting citizens on the level playing field of sport.