Tuesday, Feb 18, 2020
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Johnson’s passing brings national sport issue back up for discussion

What is the national sport of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas?

Cricket, presently, is still considered the sport so designated, decades ago. The passing of a sailing legend, Eleazor “Barber J” Johnson, no doubt will ignite the issue once again. Johnson died two days ago at the age of 80 and praises for his stalwart sporting contributions have been ringing throughout the land.

Sailing, as a result, becomes a big focus once again in the conversation regarding which discipline deserves to carry the “national sport” status.

Members of the regatta sailing fraternity have long clamored for successive governments, through the sports ministry, to officially have sailing classified as the national sport. It is a matter that takes courage, because there is bound to be a number of pushbacks from those not given preference. So, the general view, despite which political group controlled the governance of the nation, has been to leave the situation as is.

I raise the topic again, based on my view that the argument could easily be made for sailing to be declared the national sport of The Bahamas. History favors sailing. Let it be understood that my position is to put forth sailing in general, because the international aspect, which brought The Bahamas world sporting glory initially, cannot be discounted.

I wish readers to be mindful that it was via international sailing (star class), because of the skills of Durward Knowles, Sloane Farrington and Cecil Cooke, that The Bahamas earned a spot on the world’s sports map in the first place. Knowles and Farrington won the country’s first sporting world championship in 1947, and the first Olympic medal, a bronze, in 1956.

Knowles and Cooke gave The Bahamas its first Olympic gold medal in 1964.

So, indeed, Bahamian international sailing has merit, at the very least equal to that of regatta sailing. So, the lobby here is for Bahamian sailing in general to be officially deemed the national sport. More so than even track and field, sailing has achieved historic milestones (firsts) for the country.

Locally, no other sport rivals the popularity of regatta sailing. Some might question the necessity of identifying a national sport.

Well, why do we have a national flower — the yellow elder? It is totally native and is visible continually, year-round.

Why do we have a national fish — the blue marlin? The connection here is the fabled book by Ernest Hemmingway, “Old Man and Sea”, which was thought to be inspired by his adopted home location of Bimini and the surrounding sea that has long been a major habit for the blue marlin.

As for sailing, it has the largest outreach across the Bahamian archipelago, and regatta remains the primary social/sports highlight, annually, in most of the inhabited Family Islands.

The position held here is that it is quite fitting for sailing to be called the national sport of The Bahamas.

• To respond to this column, kindly contact Fred Sturrup at e-mail address sturrup1504@gmail.com or on WhatsApp at (242) 727-6363.

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