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World relays listed in national budget

The local sporting community, particularly the athletics family, remains up in arms about the sudden pullout of The Bahamas from the staging of the IAAF World Relays Bahamas 2019.

The world relays is arguably the most popular and prestigious sporting event to ever come to these shores, and from the staging of the first three editions, the event had really become synonymous with the islands of The Bahamas. Athletes, coaches and officials looked forward to coming to the sunny islands of The Bahamas for the staging of the two-day extravaganza which had become a staple on the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) calendar.

The world relays is a global event, one of the fastest rising athletic competitions in the world, and more importantly, it is a major qualifier for top world level events such as the world championships and the Olympics. Still, the government of The Bahamas didn’t see the need to invest in it going forward.

Back from the CARICOM Heads of Government Meeting in Kingston, Jamaica, Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis said that the world relays is not a priority item on the government’s agenda for 2019. According to reports, the government was not prepared to foot the bill that came along with the hosting of the meet. This after it would have been included in the national budget for the fiscal year. Nearly two million dollars was budgeted for the staging of the world relays, once again at the Thomas A. Robinson National Stadium, in New Providence, The Bahamas, in 2019.

“We have hosted the IAAF on three occasions and we have proven to be a great host,” said the prime minister. “We have proven that we can host great international events. We think that it’s time that the business and commercial sector handle these world relays. We have a lot of work to do. We have a lot of programs to implement and we have scholarships to deal with. We must place our priorities.”

During the IAAF World Championships in London, England, last year, former Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture Michael Pintard met with the movers and shakers of the IAAF, including IAAF President Lord Sebastian Coe, on the way forward between the partnership of The Bahamas and the IAAF for the staging of the world relays. One of the items on the agenda would have been revenue sharing between the two entities for the staging of the mega event. As it stands now, the IAAF carts off the lion’s share of earnings.

It’s unknown if any headway was made by The Bahamas in terms of profit sharing, but just last week, it was revealed that the government decided to sever its ties with the world’s governing body for athletics for the staging of the IAAF World Relays Bahamas 2019. Still, according to reports, the IAAF was caught off guard with the apparent sudden pullout of The Bahamas government. The Bahamas hosted the first three editions of the world relays – 2014, 2015 and again in 2017 when the event was moved to a biennial meet.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance K. Peter Turnquest was contacted yesterday to explain the government’s pullout from the world relays despite the event being included in the 2018-2019 fiscal budget, and what would now happen to the funds that were allocated for the staging of the world relays. However, he deferred comment to new Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture Lanisha Rolle, who was unavailable. There was no financial report released on the staging of the first three editions of the world relays. However, there has always been great corporate support of the event. At the last world relays in 2017, BTC came on board as the title sponsor, and corporate Bahamas showed tremendous support just like it did for the first two stagings of the world relays.

Be that as it may, the prime minister said that the decision of the government is final. He was definitive in his statements when he addressed the matter on Saturday.

“We would have done whatever was possible. I must first and foremost look after the Bahamian people and the country. That is my priority. We made a decision to pull out, and that decision is final,” said the prime minister.

As of 2017, the world relays is a part of the World Athletic Series (WAS) of the IAAF, meaning it is one of the major top level competitions on the IAAF’s calendar. The event is now held in odd years, the same year as the IAAF World Outdoor Championships. The first three editions have caught on globally as hundreds of athletes, coaches and officials from around the world come to The Bahamas as part of their national teams to compete in the relay races. In the first edition, in 2014, the competition format included the men and women’s 4×100 meters (m) relay, the men and women’s 4x200m relay, the men and women’s 4x400m relay, the men and women’s 4x800m relay and the men and women’s 4x1500m relay. The 4x1500m relays were replaced by the distance medley relays for the second edition in 2015; and in 2017, the mixed 4x400m relay replaced the distance medley events.

The Bahamas had the bid for the 2019 event and there was an agreement in place for the country to host the world relays in 2021 as well. Now, with this cancellation, the IAAF must find a host just 10 months prior to competition date. The 2019 world relays was initially set for May 10-11 at the Thomas A. Robinson National Stadium.

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