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Last updated: 22 August, 2008 - Published 17:47 GMT
 
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Forum: Caribbean at the Olympics
 
(L-R) Jamaica at 2008 Olympics: Joint silver medalist Sherone Simpson, gold medalist Shelly-Ann Fraser, and joint silver medalist Kerron Stewart

In 1960, Jamaica, Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago entered a joint team known as the British West Indies Federation (BWI).

The team won two bronzes for the 800m and the men's 4 x 400m relay.

With the formation of the West Indies Federation in 1958, the West Indian Olympic Association was established.

During the Olympics in Beijing, Jamaica notched up an unprecedented six gold medals, Trinidad took two silver medals, and Cuba's medal tally shot into double figures.

BBC Caribbean asked for your views on future joint Caribbean Olympic teams.

THE QUESTIONS

  • Should the Caribbean go further up future Olympic medal tables by pooling its resources?
  • Is the region spreading its resources too thin by entering as individual nations?
  • Should the training be a joint effort and participation be country-by-country?
  • Do athletes get enough national support ahead of the BIG events?
  • Should the Caribbean consider a joint team in future Olympics?

Have your say

If the islands are serious about producing athletes the likes of Usain Bolt and others we need to develop and invest more time and money into sporting facilities and trainers. The days for playing cricket on a Sunday evening or football matches on the beaches are over. We need to train our athletes to be serious and dedicated to their sports by providing various incentives for them to have a desire to develop their skills such as state-of-the-art facilities, gyms, professional coaching, after school programs, top of the line gear to compete with and all of this must be at a low cost to the athletes...preferably free! It’s time for us to shine and show the world what we care capable of despite of our size.
Erik Simmons,
Gros Islet, St Lucia

Particularly in football, when I look at teams like Haiti, Jamaica, Cuba, Trinidad and Tobago, I believe we could win the world cup together. But for the Olympics I think the matter of greatness does not need to be seen the same. Jamaica has already shown the best on its own, we need to all come out and hail Jamaica for being the power house fro track in field. Celebrate with Jamaica and acknowledge its great greatness in that field. Maybe the other islands should look to Jamaica for experts in track and field.
Louinel Jean,
Mandeville, Haiti/Jamaica

It would be great to have a Caribbean team, but to bring up now might be seen as an attempt to steal Jamaica's chance in the spotlight. If we had a Caribbean team, it would be mostly Jamaicans and Trinidadians who took part but then we can also give a great opportunity to the "undiscovered talent" that may be in the other small islands. Perhaps we should be unified in our training. It would feel soooooooo good to show the USA and the world what we are made of with a fully fortified Caribbean team!!!! We likkle but we tallowah!!!
Monique,
Barbados

Let me begin by stating that the British did a hell of a job on us with their divide and rule approach to rule African slaves and their colonies. It has worked so well that despite numerous attempts to form various unions of integration among Caribbean people separate from our politicians and intellectuals we have harvested failure because we are so divided. It would be a good thing for the Caribbean to send a joint team to represent the region but i know it will not happen. Imagine the U.S.A made up of 52 different states can find it in themselves to send one team to represent about 300 million people who speak with different accents and who have so many differences between and among states and the Caribbean will not. The U.S.A will grant its citizenship to people from all over the world to represent it at the Olympics and other sports yet the small countries of the Caribbean are so full of themselves and have so much division that they will not do it. Again the political union in America came first before they could see themselves as one nation that the political integration of the Caribbean will have to happen first before we see an Olympic team. It is true that the Caribbean has found some ways to do some joint work together on a few issues but just as the Europeans can come together to form the European Union one day there is hope for the Caribbean which only has only about 20 million between them. May God help us!
Jonathan, U.S.A

No! I do not think there should be an integrated Olympic team. I am Barbadian by birth and I think each country should fly on its own merits. Give the Jamaicans their due.
On training, I can see a combined training strategy, etc., but not one Caribbean team.
Pat,
Ottawa, Canada

The best for each country is to be recognized as an individual country. It is very important for an athlete to represent a country not a region.
Saluan Rossi,
Barcelona, España

My answer is NO, they should not.
Please note that the Caribbean includes Cuba, Mexico, Panama and Colombia. They would overwhelm the West Indies.
A better idea is to roll out the West Indies flag, if you can find one today, and show the world who we were and who we can be today.
James Hall,
Kingston, Jamaica
(Comment sent by mail)

I'm all for Caribbean integration. Surely we could achieve much more if there was no segregation. However, I also I think we need to find a way to promote our unique identity. Can't we do something to highlight each country? For example, how many of us are aware of Kim Collins? He is what, the 6th fastest man in the world? And where does he come from? And when we do news features, do we show the celebrants and celebrations in the other islands too? Let's put away hypocrisy. We're uniquely one and we should present ourselves as such.
Gail Fraser,
United Kingdom

It would be a great thing for the Caribbean to pull together, pool resources and submit a single team for sporting events, but at present that is unlikely. With it being suggested that Jamaica has not benefitted from Caricom you can see why. That of course is nonsense, as the countries of Caricom in general are a large market for Jamaican goods, and further there is technical co-operation between the islands at levels that may not be visible to those who make such suggestions. Jamaica has always punched above its weight at almost everything, and the name recognition will always be there. Athletics being essentially a series of individual events, it is understandable that people will want to represent their island. But in team sports and more importantly on an economic level, more co-operation can only lead to more progress.
Lew,
London

Caribbean integration can not happen since we lack the vision and without a vision we are perishing. If Europe, which has fought wars, has multiple languages etc, can form a functional union, why is it that we in the Caribbean, who are more homogeneous, cannot.
It comes down to a lack of vision, which translates into a lack of will, which brings us to where we are now, glorying in short term individual victories, while forgetting that collective action will be our only option for survival. Today it is Jamaica winning gold medals in the Olympics, yesterday and tomorrow it will be Trinidad with its oil, but neither one has saved us from our mental poverty.
Ray Gonzales,
New York, USA

Jamaica has demonstrated that no matter the size, any country can achieve and do well with enough will, dedication and talent, as have many other islands or small countries in this and past Olympics. Who exactly would benefit from "the Caribbean" having a bigger medal tally? As if that's what the Olympics is about. The Olympics is an opportunity for individuals of all countries to compete on the world stage and represent their nation. The national pride is tangible, to hear their anthem and know that they represented their country well. The Caribbean is not one country nor should it be one country. I am incensed by these debates that seem to surface whenever we achieve something on a world stage. The Olympics is one of the few arenas Jamaicans can celebrate their achievements and have national pride. I went to UWI, I have a respect for other islands, but to suggest that we enter one team is a step too far. No one ever suggests that Central America have one team. They are already trying to pass off reggae and jerk as a "Caribbean" invention, now this. The day Jamaica entered its first world cup final was such an achievement. Other islands have achieved this on their own. Have patience and any island or country can achieve it, no matter the size or economic condition.
Kay,
Kingston, Jamaica

Typical Jamaican response! I'm responding to the first response by Tyrone Hill. Please check your history. It was Jamaica that pulled out of the Federation and caused its dismantling in 1958. By stating Jamaica has suffered under every Caribbean is absurd. Please give me an example. The Olympics are for countries, and I strongly believe it should stay that way.
Kenrick Thomas,
Brooklyn, USA

Nothing so far about the Olympic results has changed my mind about a united Caribbean presence in world events. What it has confirmed for all the world to see is something I have been saying for a number of years - that per capita and population size, Jamaica, not the US or Australia, is the most successful sporting nation in the world. And, if you rightly take in Jamaicans of the Diaspora, this is doubly so.
It is a great nation which suffers from divisive class-ridden politics and bad public relations. All Caribbean people should be proud of Jamaica. I know as a non-Jamaican I am.
Hal Austin,
London

It may make sense for the OECS to compete as a team. there is a natural synergy there and the pooling of resources would uplift these smaller islands. Jamaica, Cuba, Trinidad have already made thier investments in sports and have proven that they can already compete on thier own.
Jeannelle,
Castries, St. Lucia

A good place to start might be with the smaller Caribbean islands many of which can only manage to field a team of a few athletes. They would be able to participate in activities such as relays and would have a much bigger presence in the Olympics. Success at that level may encourage the larger countries to join.
Gordon Julien,
St Kitts, Dominica

On paper, the whole notion of one Caribbean team at the Olympics makes a lot of sense because our individual countries are so small. But at the end of the day everyone wants to feel that pride that comes from seeing your country's flag flying in the stadium and hearing your countries name being announced. I don't think we as Caribbean people have come to that point where we can just as proud of joint representation as we are of our own respective countries. We are still very much individualistic. So while I think that it makes so much more sense to have a combined team, I think in reality it is simply a fantasy at this point
Karina,
Keys Village,
St. Kitts

My congratulation to all the West Indians who are participating in this year's Olympics. You work as individuals raising the flag of your own country - that is admirable - when you win for your island it doesn't matter I applaud you because your work is a reflection of all of us in the Caribbean. Antiguan by birth and by heart, my hat goes off to the formidable Antiguan athletes who are in Bejing. But a special big up to Usain Bolt for making we West Indian proud.
Sandra,
London, United Kingdom

Before reading this forum I seriously thought about the idea of a Caribbean Olympic team. But as one person stated, it will be best if we shared expertise by having a regional training ground. Cuba is great at boxing; others are great at the water sports, etc.

I was told that Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago rejected being a part of the Eastern Caribbean dollar. Supposedly Jamaica said that the smaller islands will strain their resources. I don't know if this is true, but if the Caribbean had only one Olympic team the reaction might be the same when other islands don't step up to the plate.
Tam,
Kingston, Jamaica

No, that is not a good idea. The team would definitely be made up mostly of Jamaicans for track and field, for obvious reasons, and athletes from other countries would not get their time to shine.
Christin,
Kingston, Jamaica

You guys don’t know how proud I am of all the athletes in the Olympics. Bolt is making me go crazy. I believe unity is strength. Congratulations! Coming from West Africa I know am proud to know you are our relations.
Abena Asantewaa,
Owusu Asante, Accra
Ghana

I don’t think it’s a good idea. I think every Caribbean nation is able to produce great athletes. Jamaica is the perfect example of that. They invest money into their track and field and they came up with the gold. The only sports I see my country, Haiti, invest in is judo and soccer but not in a large scale. Being able to compete for the Olympics is going around the world in tournaments and competing every year with other countries to prepare your country for the Olympic. It’s all about investments. We don’t hear any other countries talk about merging for the Olympics, because most countries properly prepare there top athletes for the big game and if they lose they implement changes in their sporting systems. The Caribbean nation just needs to invest in sports just like they need to invest in farming with this food crisis. Bottom-line. Is that the case the EU should merge their sporting to compete against the USA and China?
C.Richard,
Cap-Haitien, Haiti

Jamaica has suffered under nearly every Caricom initiative and pooling our sporting resources will prove to be the same. To ensure that every island is fully represented some of our talented young people will be sacrificed. This is big PR for our troubled island and we cannot afford to have it spread thin by removing our countries name from it, name recognition is key here.
Tyrone Hall,
Jamaica

I think it would be a great idea if Caribbean athletes can come together for the Olympics and represent the Caribbean as a whole instead of individual islands...We will call it " the Caribbean synergy".
Erik Simmons,
Gros Islet, St. Lucia

Yes, I believe that if the Caribbean countries come together to form an Olympic Team/Federation then we will be able to achieve great things. I would also recommend that the flag carried by the athletes should bear the colours of all the countries participating.
Even though I am not a Jamaican, I felt a sense of pride as I observed their performance. Wow! is a fitting word. Congratulations to all our Caribbean athletes and keep up the good work Jamaica!
Nigel Duncan,
Georgetown, Guyana

Can there be any advert for individual Caribbean nations sending their teams to the Olympics than the events of this weekend. Although not Jamaican, I was intensely proud of what their sprinters achieved. Their success is positive PR for the country and I'm sure it raised the spirits of many Jamaicans back in Jamaica.
Kennie Williamson,
Clapham, United Kingdom

In theory, yes it is a good idea, but it does not allow individual islands to shine. Already there is a problem of the public associating the Caribbean with particular islands only, so having one team will just fuel this. So what will the anthem be of this joint team and what really are the benefits? The only way this will work is to still allow the anthem of the winning island to play or some other measure to allow for some individuality.
Carolyn Francoise,
Dominica

No! We Caribbean people are not unified in football and other sports. Caricom not working for Jamaica, so why now!?!
Gery,
Tivoli

I think it's a great idea, because this way all three teams can grow and improve together in ways that separately may not have occurred. Though I must admit I jump up and down more often when my Jamaica wins gold. I do have heritage ties to Barbados and T&T so I do feel a little pride when they win medals too. So, for me, it's a win-win-win situation!!!
Rohan Lewis,
Montego Bay, Jamaica

Congratulations! When I was studying at CUC, Trinidad, I held a symposium, trying to focus on Caribbean Integration. I believe there is great hope for more advancement with the pooling of resources. Olympics would see the best of the Caribbean and the saving of non duplication will be productive. I look forwards to Federal Election in the whole Caribbean. Maybe I will return and establish a Federal Party.
Dr Derrick Morris,
Oakland, USA

If one were to analyze the current Caribbean participation at the Beijing Olympics one would notice that a number of athletes are there even though they haven't the remotest chance of winning any medal, that there are far too many officials and that our representation is quite limited. A combined Caribbean team would ensure that there is only set of officials, that most, if not all the athletes would have the potential to win medals and that our representation would be greater. For example were the Caribbean a single team right now we would win all the relays, and in all probability we would have had a male and quite possible a female soccer team there, as probably a male basketball team, more boxing medal possibilities etc. In sort more of the money would be spent on athletes rather than on officials, more athletes and teams would be there etc. And, of course, with all disciplines managed regionally there would be possibilities for potential to develop to a greater degree and for more disciplines to come to the fore.
Annan Boodram,
New York, USA

Yes, I think the Caribbean should be a one-team but the thing is the bigger Caribbean island would take the spot light and leave out the small once.
Omar Dore,
Cayon, St Kitts

Although it would be a great force for further unifying the Caribbean, it would probably keep out some of the smaller and resource-limited islands to ever get an opportunity to be at the Olympics. It's not just about winning and losing but belonging to a global world and the Olympics gives this sense. Maybe for the team sporting events we could do well to harness the strength of each different member. However for individual competitions, I say, let each country be represented.
K. Lawrence,
Roseau, Dominica

Although the thought of the Caribbean countries coming together to form a sporting alliance sound great and well thinking folks would acknowledge as such. However, I find it to be more of a nice talk, in the spirit of the Olympic season, rather than anything of substance.
Take for instance, we have already form a body called 'Caricom', where by Caribbean countries come together under a united umbrella of economics and trading benefits for all involved.
Come on folks, let get one thing working well first, before messing with something else that may push us further from each other. I think competing from individual countries is an individual pride and shouldn’t be messed with; based on feel-good approach without thinking through long term impacts.
David Johnson,
New Jersey, USA

I do not believe that it is necessary for the Caribbean countries to send a combined athletics team to the Olympics, as there is enough individual talent within those countries. But what are needed are centres of athletic excellence. Perhaps one or two centres located in the region whereby athletes could train together and coaches could pass on expertise. These centres would attract regional and international (warm weather) athletes, coaches, academics, and spectators alike.
Olando Wilson,
London

I believe in Caribbean unity but at in events like these. The only countries that would benefit like in the cricket would be the larger islands. One time people want us to be proud of our countries and another time they want us to be one big state. This has failed in the past and even from governmental level it is not working so let things remain as they are. I want to represent my country because it is the best thing to do.
Let us stop trying to put unity in every thing because of size and history. SKN is my country.
Lincoln,
St. Kitts

I believe the West Indies cricket team is providing us with a prime example of what would happen if the Caribbean states decided to pull together and create a Caribbean Olympic team. There would be all kinds of internal political nightmares which would remind us of the state of West Indies team. I think the cricket fiasco is enough for any one to bear. A regional team is by far the best way to go. This brings pride, allegiance and all kinds of other support which pulls a country together and something you may not find in any Caribbean team.
John,
London

I think the pool of resources is important, however it would be beneficial if each island competed separately to attract attention to each individual island. A man can be successful despite of where he comes from, whether it be an island (a dot on the planet) or mainland Chain (where billions reside).
Nesta Cooman,
Castries, St Lucia

A joint team would be a great idea if there is a fair process for selecting the best athletes for the games. There are many lessons from West Indies cricket. Let me say to countries not investing in sports however, the last time I check, "flag flying" was not an Olympic sport.
Raymond Henderson,
Roseau, Dominica

Of course they should. The West Indies cricket team was a great success back in the 70's, exactly for that same reason. Unity is strength and with that confidence, resources etc. We are nothing more than individual islands on tourism promotions at world events such as the Olympics in our present state.
Vere Scotland
Thonotosassa, USA

It is the only event which potentially brings all nations together. It also represents a history and geography lesson for my children who avidly watched the opening ceremony and woke me at 6am today for the diving. Long may it continue and yes, come on Grenada!
Stephen John,
London

The Caribbean should not have a joint team. This would prevent many from becoming Olympians and having the opportunity to say: "I was the best my country has or had to offer."
Jacob Amin,
USA

While it is great to see each small nation in the West Indies flying their flags at the Olympics, they don't really stand a chance against the better funded wealthier nations of the world. I think it is better to join forces and resources to equip and train a group of athletes and provide them with what they need to win. As it stands, our best athletes are now forced to train in the US and the UK.
There is no doubt that West Indian athletes can compete on a world stage. But together they are stronger. And with the weight of the region behind them they can better work to reflect the potential greatness that is inherent in the Caribbean.
Trent
Yambou, St.Vincent

Sport is what I call one of the soft benefits of regional unity, if an important one. A united Caribbean, call it a federation or economic union, will punch far above its weight. Take athletics. With the combined strength of Jamaica, Trinidad, Grenada, St Kitts and the other islands, we will be a force to be reckoned with far greater influence above our economic power.
More importantly, stronger regional competition for places will raise athletics on the local and regional agendas and particularly in schools.
The same principle applies to other sports: in netball, for example, a combined Caribbean team will be the dominant team in the world; in hockey, cycling, boxing, weightlifting, basketball and football.
Hal Austin,
London

I think a combined Caribbean Olympic Team would be good but only if the region pooled financial resource to be used to develop other sports. There are a lot of sports that people of the Caribbean do not take part in or are not well represented in the Islands. We have a lot of athletic ability that could be utilised in events other than track and field or football if only we had exposure to them.
There could be ‘Centres of Excellence’ for different sports on different Islands that could give focus to those sports and raise their profiles in preparation for the Olympics.
Terry,
London

National Pride runs through everyone's veins. I don't care whether the islands send two or two hundred athletes to compete in the Olympics. What is important is that we can cheer on the country of our birth against the bigger, more developed countries. What pleasure when we win! To echo Terence... Come on Grenada!!!
Kennie Williamson
Clapham, United Kingdom

There is much pride when a country's citizens see their national flag at an international event such as the Olympics. A joint team kills this feeling. Maybe with the 'CSME' collaboration, Caribbean nations may be able to pool their resources such training or sponsorship in a way to save costs.
Karl Isaac
Providenciales, Turks & Caicos Islands

Unified teams have happened in the past, i.e. Germany, and if the various countries and their NOCs and the IOC agree to it, then it would be entirely possible. Some people might like it and some people might not for whatever reasons. However, no matter which opinion one adheres to, I think we can all agree with Keva's suggestion that the West Indian countries should come together to develop sports programmes in the region to enhance the performance of Caribbean athletes. Certainly athletes for all sports throughout the Caribbean might benefit from training in different environments, from areas below sea level in Guyana and Suriname, where the air will be thick and the climate humid, to high altitude areas in places like Jamaica and the Dominican Republic, where the air will be thinner and the temperature colder.
Chris
Kingston, Jamaica

No. I think the past few Olympics have shown that West Indian countries can compete at the Olympics and be successful. What I do think should happen is for countries in the Caribbean to come together and discuss the further development of sports programs in the region that can enhance the performance of athletes in the Caribbean.
Keva
Nassau, Bahamas

I think it's great the small Caribbean countries flying their flags, competing against each other and the rest of the world. Come on Grenada!!!!!!
Terence Joseph
Feltham, Middx, UK

The Caribbean should enter as one team. This will give exposure to the athletes and more chances for sponsorship and therefore greater potential for the athletes to have financial success.
Maureen
Tampa, Florida, USA

 
 
West Indies Federation flag Did you know?
That there was once a West Indies Olympic team and other interesting facts
 
 
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